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I was a typical big sister growing up. The oldest of three, I saw myself as the guardian of tradition, the planner in an otherwise spontaneous family. Every Christmas Eve, if Dad forgot, I would round up the troops, lead the march to the carpet in front of the fireplace, and hand over the volume of O. Henry short stories that usually sat high up on the bookshelf.

In his soft voice, Dad would start reading The Gift of the Magi, reprising our family's Christmas tradition. It tells the story of James and Della Dillingham Young, whose poverty complicated the act of buying Christmas gifts for one another. Each sold their single prized possession in order to buy a gift for the other—Della her long hair, Jim his gold watch. Our family sat rapt for the 20 minutes it took to get to the conclusion—to Della's combs, Jim's watch chain, her short hair, his watch sold. "Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest."

There is power in a good story. And with that in mind, a few months ago I began to write my own story of growing up in an evangelical home. Unlike the tales of Christian kids that attract the most attention in blog posts and books these days, mine has a happy ending.

I grew up square in the middle of 1990s American evangelicalism, and I'm grateful and better for it. Sure, there were exceptions—a few moments that in retrospect make me cringe—but overall, it was a rich and challenging experience. I read books like Mere Christianity and The Pilgrim's Progress; talked about gender issues, racism, and social justice; and developed a remarkable group of friends who were committed to figuring out how best to live out the Christian faith.

The more I ...

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The Gift of Being Evangelical
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December 2013

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