There is one major drawback to being born a pastor's kid, going to Christian school, graduating from a Christian college, and entering the ministry. Actually, I'm sure there is more than one major drawback, but I'll save that for another time and place. That one drawback is what I like to refer to as "The Bubble."
Although I was ashamed to admit it, for over 30 years I did not have one non-Christian friend. Sure, I knew them, but we were not friends. It wasn't that I was trying to avoid them, it's just that I wasn't trying to befriend them. My entire life revolved around school, church, and work - and yes, I even worked in all-Christian environments. One would think that a woman working in ministry would have a ton of interaction with unbelievers; after all, isn't that the point - the why- of being in ministry in the first place? Well, not if you're in a bubble. It's easier to focus on the people right around you, and they usually happen to be all believers.
So it was much to my dismay when my husband suggested that we send our child to public school when our son was the vulnerable age of 5. I grew up being terrified of public school and all of the evil therein. When my husband suggested this, I wrestled with God. I toured Christian schools. I even toyed with the idea of homeschooling (surprisingly something I said I'd never do), but ultimately my husband and I both felt God calling us to put our child in public school. Yes, He was calling us. And I was not happy about it.
For the first time in my life, I prayed like I had never prayed before. I'm surprised my knees weren't bleeding from praying that much. And for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by unbelievers. And for the first time in my life, they were starting to become my friends. Their kids were starting to become my kid's friends. Oh, I was nervous. I remember talking to my all-Christian-girlfriends about it, and asking them for advice. "What am I going to talk about with them?" I wondered. After all, my entire life had revolved around church.
God began to convict my heart and open my eyes. You see, the entire time I was in the bubble, I didn't really want to admit that I was in it. I pretended that I was reaching out by serving the needy, contributing to the poor, and smiling at the stranger in the store. Yet it was all a facade. I did not have any real relationships with them.
The past 2 years God has brought so many amazing friendships into my life through my son's school. We have found things to talk about, laugh about, and even cry together about. They are on my heart constantly. I am burdened for them, and pray that one day soon they'll come to church. Yet what strikes me is that so few people are reaching my new friends. Where are all the Christians? Oh yes, they are in the bubble just like I was. They, too, are afraid to interact, afraid of being "tainted," afraid of emerging from the safety of that cocoon. Or maybe they don't even know they're in the bubble.
One thing is sure, we need to get out of the bubble. With more of my friends deciding to homeschool, I am happy for them and believe they are doing what's right for their families. Yet I want to plead with them to not climb back into the bubble - to not forget to seek out relationships with those who need Jesus - to not become too "safe." For those in ministry, I want to encourage you to not forget to make relationships with those outside of the church. Although reaching out comes naturally to many, to others like me, we have felt too busy, or haven't even noticed that we weren't in real relationships with unbelievers.
My friends need you. Your neighbors need you, and your kid's friend's parents need you. Please, please get out of the bubble.