Outside the Evangelical Bubble

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By Sheli Massie | Twitter: @sheligeoghanmas

I have never felt more out of place than I do with “Christians.”

My first year in high school, I tried out for the color guard. Now, keep in mind I have about as much coordination as a two-year-old waking up from a nap with head cold, but there I was trying to make the team. I might as well have been trying out for the Olympics the way things went down that day.

Apparently everyone in the room had been taking dance classes for years; I was a softball player. They fit into leotards; I knew how to eat pasta. For six hours I tried to keep up, watching others remember what to do and what not to do. To no one’s surprise, my name was not on the list posted in the hallway the following Monday morning.

If I’m honest, I never wanted to be a color guard. I wasn’t even sure what they did except wave flags at the football games. I wanted to belong. I wanted a group of people who saw me.

I spent my teen years trying to fit in somewhere. Trying to be seen and loved. When I went away to a Christian college, I thought, Now, now I can be who I want to be. Who I really am. With overalls, Birkenstocks, and the Indigo Girls playing, I began to sink into my own skin.

Until I realized I was on the edge.

I was surrounded by a world and a lingo I didn’t understand. Abbreviations like MK and PK were part of the daily conversations, while all I knew was TLC and 420. They would talk about praise and worship teams and I would think, Have they ever heard of the Eagles? I would sit in my Bible classes and think, How does everyone else know about this and why was I left out? Girls would talk about their purity rings and I would wonder why I was not allowed inside of this bubble.

I stood on the perimeter watching a world create more questions than I had answers to.

Five years after college, I decided that I wanted to be a part of this world I was not christened into. This pull into safety and belonging. Baptized on a million-dollar stage professing to follow the man who walked with the unprivileged. While thousands raised their hands, apparently that is a thing you do. The ironic nature of it all reminds me now of an Alanis Morissette song more than anything.

And yet still, I was on the edge.

For years I carried this deep shame about my past in Christian circles. My “testimony” (look at me using christianese) was one that I could not share in Bible study unless I also wanted to be taken to rehab after. My “before” proved to be too much for most to process or comprehend. I was an afterschool special on MTV and most of those around me were never even allowed to watch cable. The same way I could not comprehend what it was like to grow up in the evangelical church, others could not comprehend what it was like to grow up without. I was too much.

I have lived my life on the edge.

I went to bars.
I had sex.
(A lot of sex.)
I did drugs.
I skipped school.
I ran away.
I numbed.
I cheated.
I had an eating disorder.
I lost friends.
I was kicked out of college.
I had a child on my own.

Weaved into the life of a girl mothers kept their sons from, was a girl Jesus was chasing. I can tell you story after story of moments I saw Jesus in my life. Moments I felt the breath of God on my face when I was in the depths of his mercy. Stories of redemption and healing that can only be explained as a mother holding me.

I want to live on the edge. The edge is where it is broken. The edge is where mercy is. The edge is where it is messy and rugged. The edge is where the outcasts are. The edge is the immigrant. The edge is the LGBTQ2S+ community. The edge is the minorities. The edge is the poor. The edge is the forgotten. The edge is the lost. The edge is the awake. The edge is the justice-seekers. The edge is the refugees. The edge is the survivors. The edge is where I believe in God.

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About Sheli:

Sheli Massie is a story keeper, seeker of justice, healing and hope in a broken world. She believes in longer tables, unlocked doors and living a barefoot life. She and her husband live outside of Chicago with their five children and one grandlove. You can find her over on Instagram @shelimassie_, Redbud Writers, and her website.

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