It was 1971, maybe 1972.
I had thick Coke bottle glasses and bright, shiny, silver braces.
I lived two lives.
In the neighborhood, I had a few friends. But at school, the boys taunted me, called me names, and the cool girls made fun of my clothes. My teachers always liked me, I was a teacher's pet kind of girl. But junior high was hell.
In my other life, at church, I was mostly happy, and safe, and people liked me. I was on the student council. I hung out with the “cool kids”. If others thought I was weird, they were too nice to ever say it. We had an amazing youth pastor who loved us with all his heart.
But I knew how far apart my two worlds were.
Even at age 11 or 12, I started realizing that I wanted to live in safe, friendly, Church World. In Church World people were nice to you, and you were measured by your spiritual knowledge and depth. You could be popular because you were good on the Bible Quiz Teams, or memorized all your verses at summer camp.
In Real World, your Christian beliefs made you stand out from everyone else. You dressed different, you acted different, and the other kids were tough on you. “You can’t dance? Why not?” “Why can’t you listen to that music?” “Why don’t your parents go to the neighborhood parties?” “You can’t drink? Ever?”
I was overwhelmed with how to make it through junior high, much less high school and beyond. It seemed impossible to live out your life with feet in both Worlds. They were too different. You couldn’t “fit in” both places. And God knows, “fitting in” is all important to an adolescent.
So it’s a normal Sunday morning. Our church was trying to bridge the gap between the worlds. We had a special “Youth Service”, the second of three Sunday morning services. We were cool, we were in junior high, and we got to go to that middle service that was just for young people. No choir, no organ, a special sermon, and best of all, “special music”. Drums, guitars, things that made the older folks happy we had our own service. We had heard some pretty cool, if still tame, musicians perform.
But that Sunday morning my life would change forever.
That morning when the “special music” was introduced, a young man walked out on the stage. He had on black jeans, a black shirt, and white tennis shoes. His long blonde hair, parted in the middle,fell well beyond his shoulders. It got very quiet in the sanctuary.
He adjusted the microphones, for several minutes, smiled at us. Strummed his guitar. Adjusted the microphones some more. Smiled again.
Then he stepped back from the mic, raised his right arm up above him, index finger pointed to the ceiling. And sang, “One way, one way to heaven, hold up high your hands. One way, free and forgiven, children of the Lamb.”
Larry Norman had just upset everything I thought I knew about my faith, my life, and my relationship to this planet.
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