Little Drummer Mandy, part one

I became a Christian when I was fifteen. My family had always been poor and was full of all the typical dysfunction associated with poverty and addiction. I had a lot of mixed-up ideas about God and religion and Jesus. I had dabbled in Wicca but eventually landed on intellectual atheism as a world philosophy I could really get behind (inasmuch as a fifteen year old girl can make such claims).  I came into faith through a bit of a back door, namely Mormonism. The people I met were extraordinarily accepting of this awkward, dark, broken girl, and they taught me about love and grace and Jesus. They made space for me in their homes and their churches and their lives. My intellectual objections were openly dealt with, and I was free to question and learn. I was also free to participate in family life and healthy friendships.

Eventually, however, I was led into the hardest decision of my life to that point. After a year in the church I chose to break the hearts of the people closest to me, left the Mormon church, and moved to a more mainstream, nondenominational Christian church. This church family was also extraordinarily warm and accepting of me, still with many broken places and a lot of questions.  The church was full of strong families, loving parents, well-adjusted children and lots of people willing to be surrogate parents to the handful of spiritual orphans who ended up in their midst. I developed a group of friends who were almost too committed to one another, who remained close for years. And they all knew so much, about the Bible and God and His Son. Much of my belief system was an odd mix of Mormon theology, Bible passages, and speculation.

I experienced deep love and acceptance from these people, but I also became deeply aware of just how poor I was. Poor in material wealth. Poor in understanding of the faith. Poor in relational health. Poor in status. I carried with me a constant sense of “misfitishness.” I felt the sting of it when I was the only teen to need “scholarships” to be included in events. I felt it when friends would come to my house for the first time and I could see the discomfort wash over their faces. I felt it when I would tell stories from my childhood (or even from that week) that seemed commonplace until the adults’ looks of disbelief and pity would peer back at me.

My poverty didn’t exclude me from this community, but it marked my participation within the community. And it marked my understanding of God’s view of me. I felt I was a step-child in the kingdom of God, let in because of my faith but not of the same quality as my friends. They had more to offer, more to stand on, more to make them lovely and useful. They were more valuable because they had more to give. I was accepted, but my value was small.

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1 Comment

  1. December 10, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    […] and creativity into the song. I’ve written about the impact the latter song has had on me here and here. My favorite lighter songs are “Let It Snow” and “Baby, It’s Cold […]


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