when we were on fire.


I was a junior in high school, and I was on fire.

The mangled, dirty red “WWJD” bracelet wrapped around my wrist, next to beaded hemp friendship bracelets from summer camp, its worn strings another reminder of my faith.  It was Monday morning, so I showed up to my English teacher’s classroom before school to grab a stack of flyers: I was now, officially, a junior leader for Young Life, and it was part of my duty to help get everyone who “needed” to be there, there.  I, of course, didn’t need to be there: I’d already accepted Jesus into my heart, I already called myself a Christian.

I was friends with everybody, or so I claimed, so I passed those flyers out without regard: to the jocks and the partiers, to the band geeks and the preps, to the nerds and the loners.  With joy and without apology, my zeal could not be contained; I dodged couples making out, tangled bodies pushed up against lockers, and freshmen running as to not be late.  I shoved flyers into the hands of anyone I made eye contact with or shouted hello to – after all, since everyone was my friend, this was not only my right, it was my duty.

That night, I’d show up to club: I’d scope the front door for newcomers, piously claiming  ownership: He came because of me!  I’d scan the room for my current crush, hopeful that he already knew Jesus so that I wouldn’t have to Date to Save.  My Campaigners leader had told me it was wrong to be “unequally yoked,” and I didn’t want to destroy my standing with her.  I’d laugh at the jokes, and cross my fingers that they’d call me up for a game – but as the now-Christian kid, I was old news to play Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich With Just Your Feet.  Instead, I’d sing “Sweet Home Alabama,” fists merrily pumping on bama, bama, bama! and when it was time for the slow songs, I’d sit up just a little bit straighter from my seat on the floor, my own voice loudly carrying the melody for all the newcomers.  I’d cheer for the leader giving the talk that week, although deep down inside, I knew the fluffy, story-filled talks weren’t actually for me – they were for those who didn’t quite get it yet.  The Outsiders.

Since I was already in, I filled the rest of the week with other, deeper moments with other Christians.

I’d show up 45 minutes early to school the next morning, and head to that same, now- abandoned English classroom.  Tim, the new senior transfer, had started TFC, Time For Change, but it was much more selective than Young Life.  You had to be a Christian, a committed Christian who would sacrifice sleep for Jesus, to be there; we wanted to show the rest of our school that it really was time for a change, because it mattered, He mattered.  We were taking McNary High School over for Jesus.  Tim would lead us in songs, and we’d belt out “Light the Fire” and “Shout to the Lord” and “I Exalt Thee,” each voice competing for the loudest, holiest, most angelic spot.  We’d leave the door wide open so that others would hear how much we loved Jesus, and maybe, just maybe, realize  Truth.

Maybe we’d even let them in.

I’d visit various youth groups when I didn’t have to work on a Wednesday night, and come Sunday morning, I had my list of churches I could visit to get fed, and get right with Jesus, and repent from Friday and Saturday nights.

Because the truth was this: although I really, really loved Jesus, and although I really, really wanted everyone to know it, I also wanted to keep my options open.

I wanted to get invited to that party, to the one that everyone was going to be at.  I wanted to drink wine coolers and smoke the pack of cloves hidden in the glove compartment of my car; I wanted to kiss my crush, and tell Kristen and Sarah and Jessica the whole story the next week at school.  I didn’t want to be too Christian, because being Too Christian was boring, and I was above that label, I was fun.  

Besides, how else was I going to have a good three-minute testimony?

So with one foot in and one foot out, my Doc Martens tottered precariously on the fence of Evangelicalism, on the brink of Christianity.  I was the older son, but I yearned to be the younger son.  I’d wear my Young Life sweatshirt on Mondays, but as for one of those youth group t-shirts that boasted verses, a la “The Lord’s Gym,” I would have none of that – because I wasn’t that much of a Jesus Freak.

I was a Jesus Freak when it mattered – and, as for me and my testimony, that was enough.


Although I write quite frequently on faith, I haven’t necessarily spent very much time musing over the more Evangelical, “On Fire” times of my spiritual journey.  But it felt appropriate, as fellow blogger and writer Addie Zierman‘s book, When We Were on Fire, makes its publishing debut today.  But in the meantime, what has your spiritual journey been like?  What, if any, parts of my story did you resonate with?   

12 thoughts on “when we were on fire.

  1. Um. I resonate with exactly all of the above, except mine technically wasn’t Young Life. Thank you for your honest words today. I’m intrigued by Zierman’s book!

    {On another note, were you — in the photo above — dancing to “King of the Jungle” or “Place in this World”…by any chance? Because I definitely spent a slumber party or two doing just that. Slight Shudder.}

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, friend. 🙂 As per the dance, it was actually probably to DC Talk’s Jesus Freak. 😉

      Cara Meredith

      be, mama. be. carameredith.com

  2. Date to Save? Is that a thing? Having grown up in a mainline, non-evangelical denomination, all these stories are so interesting to me because they’re so different than my experience. (We had a new non-Methodist youth group leader once who introduced me to the term “saved”, if that gives you an idea of what I mean!)

    1. Date to Save might be a little extreme, although I do remember an email forward floating around at one point (in jest, albeit – although the unequally yoked was quite true). It is so interesting to think that this has been part of my experience, and to then wonder what Life both inside and outside of the church will be like for our kin. Always love your comments, Sarah!

      Cara Meredith

      be, mama. be. carameredith.com

    1. It definitely lasted off and on through the first year or two of college …as you know. 😉 xo.

      Cara Meredith Courtesy of …the greatest phone on the planet that happens to have an ‘I’ in front of its name.


  3. I always thought that TFC at McNary was just an excuse for choir kids to hear themselves sing praise and worship music. I never heard the gospel once when I attended….and so I thought that being a Christian just meant reforming my behavior and learning Hillsong United choruses.

    1. How funny – I never thought of it like that, but I think all these different interpretations probably hold true. It’s so interesting to think back on that time, as our intentions may not have been true, per say, but they felt so right.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing Cara. I LOVE the photo, and though we didn’t have Young Life at our school, your experience mirrored my own with all the clubs and the “exclusive” Bible studies for just the “committed Christians.” Maybe if I’d have been a little more popular or outgoing, I would have found myself straddling the line too…but I was so awkward and shy, a good girl to my core. I was too afraid of the other side of the line, sure I wouldn’t fit in there, so I never dared. So glad you linked up. Loved hearing your take!

    1. Oh yay! Thank you for taking the time to read all the synchro-blogs. It’s been good to think about this time in my life, both via your blog and the book (which I’m about 2/3 thru). Keep it up, lovely!

  5. When I saw that you participated in Addie’s synchroblog I thought I should invite you to participate in a monthly synchroblog that I am a part of.

    It’s made up of a home-grown group of bloggers who like to write on topics of post-modern faith & life. This group is open to anyone who is interested in participating. We value respectful conversation and dialogue while honoring our differences. We share links & try to learn from each other.

    Some of the people that originally participated in the synchroblog no longer blog and I am trying to reach out to people like you who are currently passionate about blogging in order to keep our monthly synchroblog relevant and vital.

    If you are interested in joining us you can join the facebook group and receive monthly invitations to the synchroblog. Here is that link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/114506961937378/

    And you can find our website (which you can subscribe to if you want to receive an email when we post the monthly theme announcement/invitation) here: http://synchroblog.wordpress.com/

    (You can see all of the themes that we have covered in the past on our website in order to get an idea of what we do)

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