By Monique Duson
“Monique, I need to talk to you!” The young college student had rushed right up to me. She was, as she explained, coming to understand more of what it means to truly follow Christ. As we stood there, she told me that she had begun to recognize the fundamental contradictions between her own Christian identity and worldview and that of her core friend group. She wanted to tell her friends about her faith, and that she no longer affirmed the worldview they’d grown in together. However, she feared her friends would walk away. Even when alluding to Christianity in a group text, she said, “A friend private-messaged me that I should not talk about these things.”
And here she was, tears in her eyes.
She confessed that she’d finally come to a fork in her road. She knew that the way of Christ would necessarily separate her from the path of her friends.
“What do I tell my friends?” she asked me. “I think I’m going to lose my friends. I don’t want to lose my friends. I’ve heard that when you moved away from social justice and critical race theory, you lost all your friends. Did you really lose all your friends?”
I normally get questions about race or queer theory, so I hadn’t expected a topic that could expose so much of me, that would touch some of my deepest hurts. Her questions immediately sent me back three years to the pain and confusion I had felt in choosing to walk away from the critical social theories. That choice resulted in the loss of many of my long-time friends.
So here we were: I, caught off guard and a bit bare; she, adamant and slightly desperate. As I listened to her, I quietly prayed for wisdom and the right words. I wasn’t sure how to diplomatically describe the road she would soon be traveling. I mean, there’s no real genial way to say, “Prepare to be kicked out of your tribe, to be lonely, at least for a season. Prepare for your once-jovial memories to now evoke wretched heartache and longing.” So I started by simply asking her how honest she wanted me to be.
By God’s grace, I managed to piece together words that I hoped were solidly biblical and comforting, even in the smallest ways, words that would make sense to her. But as I’ve thought about that conversation since then, I’ve realized that there are some things I’d say differently, and some things I’d add. So I’m sharing them here because the reality is that every believer will, at some point, need to choose between Christ and the historic Christian worldview on one hand, and the culture and our friends and family who may represent it on the other.
The more we choose to walk with Christ, the more we may find ourselves walking on a road less traveled. Here are five truths to hold on to (or to share with a friend) when the fork in your road leads you to a path less traveled.
1. The Scriptures are our God-given source of wisdom for the hard road ahead.
Pray and seek the Scriptures for wisdom. The Scriptures give us knowledge of God and instruction for navigating life’s hills and valleys.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Prov. 9:10) “Hold onto instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.” (Prov. 4:13-15).
I was able to walk away from the critical social theories because I was convinced that the Scriptures possessed wisdom that actually offered a better hope for justice, unity, and human flourishing. It was through prayer and the Scriptures that God graciously orchestrated my paradigm shift. It was through prayer and the Scriptures that God established a foundation that enabled me to stand. When you have to make a decision between Christ and the culture, seek the Scriptures, and pray for wisdom and discernment to make godly decisions.
2. We can depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). The greatest of human wisdom is folly before the Lord. We can rest assured that God goes before us and marks out our paths and that His wisdom and counsel are what’s truly needed for life. He is not “up there,” waiting to see how you do with “walking on your own.” His spirit is near, always offering comfort and wisdom.
If the Holy Spirit prompts you to reach out to a friend who may disagree with your stance on historic, orthodox Christianity, don’t become dismayed or fearful of a conversation. Trust the work of the Holy Spirit to empower you with what you need at that moment and to help you speak the truth to your friend. Trust that the Holy Spirit is after their heart as well, even more than you are.
3. Others have walked this path before.
“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (Prov. 13:14). Proverbs repeatedly encourages readers to seek wisdom and to walk in the way of wisdom. Wisdom will keep you from giving in to your emotions. There were several times that I wondered if I was doing the right thing. There were times when people would say horrible things to me and about me, and I wanted to defend myself and respond in ways that would neither honor God nor the other person. As I walked with Krista, she reminded me of what the Word of God said—sometimes several times a day! Pain is real, and desires for vindication (and in my case, vengeance) can also be real. So surround yourself with those who will speak the word of God to you, pray for you, and offer you wise counsel.
4. It's okay, even necessary, to grieve.
The pain is real because the love and fond memories you shared are real. It’s okay to acknowledge the pain of that loss and to cry out to God to heal your heart. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.“ (Ps. 147:3)
It may be weird to think about grieving when someone hasn’t physically died, but friendships, like people, have quirks and character and life; humans are deeply intertwined. When deep friendships end, a time of loneliness may be what follows. Trust God in the process. Allow loneliness to push you toward God and toward your Christian family. Pray and ask God to provide you with the “tribe” that He would have you walk with.
While I don’t celebrate the sinful lifestyle I once lived, I also don’t deny the good memories, the shared significant life events, and the friendships that blossomed in that season. We don’t have to shy away from grief or pretend that our hearts don’t break. We can humbly take comfort in knowing that we serve a God who is close to the brokenhearted.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18).
5. Walking this road will take time ... and patience.
One of the beautiful aspects of Jesus’ teaching is the grace he demonstrated with the regular people, with the unbeliever, and with those who were far from the covenant with God. While He may have held firm convictions with the religious leaders (see, for example, John 8:23-24 and Matt. 12:24), He extended compassion and grace, teaching and healing and even weeping over the affliction of mankind (see John 11 and Luke 19). It is the grace and kindness of God that has captured us and led us to repentance. While we should never condone sin, we can extend grace to those who may be living in ways counter to Christianity, remembering that people are not going to always show up in the most helpful, compassionate ways. Yet, as much as possible, we can’t just throw people away; we must seek to share the truth of Jesus with grace and clarity.
Have grace with yourself as well. This road is new. You’re going to stumble. If you’re like me, doing new things can lead to anxiety. Instead of rushing to get off this unfamiliar road, look around. Don’t be in such a hurry that you overlook valuable lessons in front of you, such as understanding where God is when we’re lonely, or what it looks like to be angry and not sin.
In the beginning, all of this—the understanding that my road was leading me away from my friends and the daily struggle to trust that the path before me was one orchestrated by God—was very hard. It was difficult to remain obedient, to stay consistent with prayer and reading the Scriptures. I often felt sad, angry, and alone. But the road didn’t stay this way. It eventually opened up to something quite beautiful. I’ve deepened my understanding of God’s Word, and new friendships have emerged. I can also look back and see the places where I stumbled, where I didn’t show up well for my friends. I’ve grown. I’m not afraid of walking alone because I know that God truly is with me. I thank God for Krista’s voice as I began this journey. Prayer and her biblical wisdom kept me focused and kept me walking forward.
If you find yourself embarking on a new journey without your longtime friends or church community, or possibly without your family, don’t get stuck at the beginning, fearing what may be in store. Pray for wisdom, trust the Holy Spirit, seek Godly counsel, grieve, and have grace. Keep walking on the path less trodden. The wide path of this world has nothing for you.