Perspective from a second class Christian: 1) An outsider

This post or series of posts is for you Paul on

Paul, so many of your phrases are bobbing about in my head and heart:“Us and them”, ‘allowing Jesus to possess us’ ; seeing Jesus ‘less darkly’; corporate church; rules and regulations; joining the “party” or “family”; fear; God not needing to forgive, maybe; weird stuff; and, Love, always you come back to Love; Love is the answer, what was the question?

It is also for you Little Monk.

This post has been sparked by your recent posts about what it is to be a Christian and what it is like to step out in faith, when you cannot “see” the way ahead, except through trusting our Father, trusting His words, trusting both when the skies are sunny and through the hurricane.

And finally, Church mouse, this post is for you.

Your post interested me when you talked about the components of faith: Faith being a gift from God, and comprising Knowledge of Him, our assent and acknowledgement of divine revelation; trust in the eternal truth and assurance of His promise.

All of you have got me thinking and wanting to share my thoughts and stories, conversation and connections.

This is a story of my take on some of the above; my walk with God or rather His walk with me from an early age. Like you sometimes write in your posts, Paul, I don’t know where this will take me or where it will take you or any others who may be reading. I am anxious, a little. Will I reveal too much about me? I have been told that I am too honest. And perhaps too open? It makes me vulnerable and misunderstood at times.

This is a story of Faith and Learning and making Mistakes. It is a shaky faith and sometimes I have gone astray. It is the only way I know how to be a witness; to present myself, warts and all, and reveal how God has loved me, and how I have responded to that Love. I used to think I was a second class Christian which is the reason for the title. Now I am just me with one main aim in life:

“To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God”(Micah 6:8)


And so to the story:

I am an outsider. I discovered this from childhood.

I was born in our family home in the town where we lived. As I grew up I discovered that we were  “incomers”. People in my town had lived there for generations. They had brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents all living just around each corner. In the 60s when I was born, it was a small working class town, with a grammar school and secondary school, a lovely park and several mills and factories. The houses were terraced, back to back with outside toilets and set in rows of streets in the centre of the town. As you climb the hills the houses are bigger, some semi-detached and with gardens. Smog filled the valley from the factory chimneys; as you walked higher you could walk up out of the smog into the sunshine above. Even so soot needed to be washed off the leaves of the rhododendron bushes in our garden. I was born in a rambling stone house, surrounded on three sides by a beautiful garden, set between the edge of a farmer’s field and the wilder moorland of the hills. It was at the very top of the road. It was an idyllic setting and I loved my childhood home. I still do.

I learnt at a young age, lessons about prejudice. My own pre-judging! At junior school, (which I attended aged between 7-11) I was invited to lots of parties. When a girl had a birthday, the whole class of girls would be invited. Everyone went. A girl in my class who was over weight invited me and my best friend to her party. We chatted loudly about it in the school yard.

“Let’s not go to her party. Everyone will be fat” . We decided it would be no fun because in our childish minds, fat people were boring. We were both rude and ignorant.

I don’t know if I declared to my Mum that I would not attend the party. Fortunately if I did she ignored me. My friend and I both went. It was the first time I had ever played twister and I remember the hilarious tangles we got into before we ended on the floor in a giggling heap. It is one of the only parties that I can clearly remember. Afterwards my best friend and I breathed to each other in appreciation: “That was the best party ever!”  It taught me an early lesson, not to judge by appearances.

I also learnt at an early age that I liked people who were different. Three Asian sisters joined our school for a short time. I was entranced by the silk and colour of their gowns, as they wore traditional dress. We had a skipping rope and we played endless skipping games together. I felt honoured to be part of their play. And then they vanished as quickly as they had arrived. I never learnt where they went. I was sad after they left.

Another person who was different I met on the bus. She was a little girl who dazzled me with stories about how she was about to be confirmed and for this she would wear a white dress and be given a special new name. I didn’t realise at the time that she was the first Roman Catholic that I had met. The Roman Catholics all attended a separate school.

It took me awhile to realise that I was different too. A gradual awakening. The crunch came in the secondary school which for me for a time was the grammar school.

There are two embarrassing incidents that I can recall. One was funnier for me than the other. I loved imaginary games and ‘pretending’ and so I loved being in plays.  In my first year I was given a small part as a slave girl in Anthony and Cleopatra. I had only a few lines to say: “The Romans are coming. The Romans are coming” as I ran on stage. There were plenty of us slaves, and I had the privilege of being chosen to have a few words to say. We all had bare feet and wore simple white tunics. The play ran for a few nights.

What embarrassment I felt one night when after my big scene, I walked off the stage as the curtain came down, and a fellow actor pointed at my feet. I followed her gaze. To my chagrin I was still wearing the slippers that I wore between scenes. I was the first slave girl in the Roman Empire who had the comfort of anachronistic fluffy purple slippers as she cried out in horror that the Romans were coming.

The second embarrassing incident was again in the public gaze when I was chosen to read a lesson in Assembly. I was shy child and teenager and yet I was often chosen to read as I had a good ability from reading in Church and acting in Church plays. However as a teenager I had become increasingly self-conscious. I had become ashamed about my family’s difference. I don’t know when I started to notice. It may have started when walking home from school, another child yelled across the road at me: “Are you rich?”. I began to sneak into the home I loved by the back door because I didn’t want anyone to see that I lived there. Going through the front gate, I was in full view of the whole road. Of course everyone knew. My dad was a local family doctor (General Practitioner) and he had pictures of us in his surgery. People knew me even when I didn’t know them.

As a teenager all you want to do is blend in. Perhaps during those agonising years we all think we are different and unacceptable. I could not hide it. People knew I was different because of my voice.

When I met someone new, especially adults, they would say: “You’re not from round here, are you?”. Blushing, bright red, I would protest that I was, and then try to explain. I was born here, but my Mum and Dad came to live here from outside. My accent is from my Mum. The first three years of my life, Mum cared for me at home. She was a mother and housewife, something I wanted to be when I grew up. My Mum was from south London in Surrey. She had a gentle middle class southern accent. I spoke like her.

At school I became increasingly silent. I often gained good marks in my school reports and came second or third in class, especially in the early years at the grammar school. All my school reports scolded me about the same thing. I had good marks, but I was too quiet. Always too quiet.

On this particular day, when asked to do the reading, I panicked. I do not have a particularly good ear for languages and so in all my years of living there I had not been able to adopt the northern twang. So I tried to make it up. In front of the whole school, I dropped the H’s of the words with H and tried to produce my version of a Northern accent. I sounded strange even to my ears. Afterwards, my brother quizzed me with affection: “You spoke with a strange accent today.” I was too upset to explain why. I didn’t get chosen to read again.








About Gentle Breeze

Julia is married to Kevin. They live together in Todmorden with their black and white cat Willow. Todmorden is a small rural town nestling among the Pennine hills in the Upper Calder Valley, on the border of West Yorkshire and Lancashire. Julia is a mixture of contradictions. She happily shares her email address with her husband; yet when she married she kept her own surname.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Reflections, Spirituality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Perspective from a second class Christian: 1) An outsider

  1. paulfg says:

    Julia, as I was growing up we had a massive dining table. Solid, battered, there to be sat at rather than admired. I remember so many times when lunch would turn into dinner – the table cleared and re-set whilst the conversation flowed back and forth. That table and our home seemed to allow that informality. We could get sixteen around that table with a squeeze. Our own home now has that same table. And still it seems to be infused with the same informality.
    This post – and maybe more to come – reminds me of those times.
    So for now I am enjoying sitting quietly.
    Thank you for inviting me.

  2. Little Monk says:

    “I am anxious, a little. Will I reveal too much about me? I have been told that I am too honest. And perhaps too open? It makes me vulnerable and misunderstood at times.”

    Dear Julia,

    I feel very humbled and privileged to be listed in your post. This comment of yours… the anxiety… spoke deeply in me. I understand, empathize with, the anxiety. When we put ourselves transparently “out there” in so public a forum, there’s no telling whether or not we will be understood, and whether our vulnerability will lead to hurt. While I would love to say… “Fear not! There is nothing here to hurt you!”… That would be foolishness for me to say. I have no idea what response or comment your honesty may prompt in others.

    But… but I think you are honed in on a “deeper truth”, a more important thing, about “witness”, about “testimony”, that I understand only in my better moments, not every moment.

    What you are doing, what makes it sacred, is not that it is about YOU. You’re not doing “this” (whatever “this” is… as you are “following breadcrumbs” of grace) but rather the Lord leads you in a work of disclosure and encouragement for others. Is it awkward and a bit uncomfortable, yes. Might it lead to rejection from some? Well… honestly… yes.

    But you’ve now grasped by the horns… the tension between the *I* and the *me*. You, your *I*, is committed to following this leadership of Spirit, (unction, inspiration… whatever word our particular “flavor” of Christianity is comfortable with)… in obedience for purposes of His own. Your *I* is your “actor”, the one who steps forth, takes action, makes decisions, takes risks. And, in this case, you are doing so in spite of potential consequences to your “me”. Your “me” may be rejected, misunderstood, insulted, criticized, whatever… and by this we experience emotional discomfort or pain.

    I know I’m rambling… and I’m sorry, I don’t mean to.

    But just hear me say, “Go on with it, whatever and wherever He leads… with all the courage and encouragement from us you can muster.” Because YOU have it “right”, and “critics” don’t. It’s not about you, it’s about Him… and that’s where your testimony leads, and that sharing is the point of relationships at all. Whether people get it or don’t is on them. The courage to put your experience with Him out there… that’s on you. And you are doing it. You’re *I* is determined to speak His words (those He’s written/spoken into your life), regardless of possible risks to your “me”.

    And, at the same time… what sets this all apart from simple “narcissism” or “egotism”, is that you are willing and open to listening respectfully for the voice of the Spirit in and through others. You don’t assert your own inerrancy or authoritative revelation to the exclusion of all others. You just lay out your own experience, and invite the participation of others.

    Anyway, I’ll hush now… But I just have to add that your Micah verse keys on exactly the essence of living in Him. Boiled down to ultimate simplicity, that verse will lead unavoidably into the centre of His heart!

    Grace…. LM

    • Thank you LM
      And thank you for rambling. I can ramble too and it makes me feel comfortable when I am not alone. I am glad that you can tell that although this is about me, in another way it isn’t. Or I hope not anyway. It is about Him who walks with me and how He has lit up my life.
      And thank you that you understood what I was saying about the Micah verse. I could have rambled on about other verses and chose not to. It encourages me that you write “this verse will lead unavoidably into the centre of His heart” because that’s where I want to be.

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