United but Still Different

My roots are in a well-tended, predictable garden. From the age of two, I lived in the same split-level ranch in the suburbs, attending the same schools until I left for college. As a "cradle Christian," I cut my teeth on a King James Bible and played hide-and-seek behind the pulpit at church. The biggest changes I dealt with were repainting the walls in my bedroom or having a fight with my best friend.

Jeff's childhood garden was a little bit wilder. His family frequently moved—he went to three schools in fourth grade alone—and although he always felt loved, he lived with pulling up stakes and dealing with change. Except for a few passing stabs at church-going, he grew up thinking Sunday morning was for reading the funnies and sleeping in after being out late Saturday night. He lived with the chaotic freedom to decide what lines he wanted to draw and where he wanted to draw them.

As a result, Jeff longed for boundaries and craved order. His baseball cards were rubber-banded by team and year, then alphabetized by the players' last names. It was when a church-going woman in his rural town gave him a scholarship to church camp in Junior High that he learned about God and carved out an identity in his family: Jeff became the conservative one, the boy who followed the rules. His rebellion was becoming the "good kid" and drawing some pretty hard lines around what was right and wrong.

For the record, my own baseball cards were tossed in a shoe box in slap-dash disorder. Dinner at my house on Sundays was a discussion of the sermon in which issues were debated. In this secure environment, I grew to be unafraid of arguing and pushing the limits. It was safe to question because my foundation was bedrock. My parents were teetotalers. "Jesus drank wine," I pressed. "Why don't we?" When my curfew was 10 p.m., I nagged for 10:30. Mom and Dad refused to let me see PG movies and I longed to see the flicks my peers were talking about. But I knew I could strike a rebellious pose in complete safety.

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