Who wants to be different? Not many folks, and especially not young people. When our youngest daughter Maggie was a freshman in High School she had her school driving permit. One day her vehicle wouldn’t start. Maggie’s pickup was Jay’s former set of wheels, a twenty plus year old truck called Whitey. Because it is a farm truck, it has been “rode hard and put away wet”. The paint is peeling off, it has its fair share of dents and dings and a window which doesn’t roll down on one side. Maggie, however, claimed it as her own. So, on that fateful day her dad gave her a lift to school. To High School. Afterward I got a call from my husband and he was laughing.
Just the previous spring, if Jay were to give her a ride to school she was good with that. At least she didn’t have to ride the dreaded school bus any longer. But over the course of the summer something changed. Perhaps it was the fact that now she could drive herself to and from school. More than likely it is the fact that she was fifteen years old and most fifteen-year old kids don’t want to be seen too much with their parents.
Jay told me that they drove up to the school, but not too close, and Maggie says, ” Dad, don’t do anything embarrassing.” Then she goes on to tell him where to park “Whitey” when he delivers her truck to school later. Translated: “Get that truck fixed so I don’t need you to pick me up after school!!” Before shutting the door, she adds, “and don’t be looking in the windows of the school for me or anything like THAT. Thanks Dad, love ya, bye.”
And it happened just like that. It was now embarrassing to be seen with parents who were cool four short months ago.
For those of you that have ever been (which is all of us) or who have raised teens we know this is just part of the growing up process. The part where the little birdies start to flap their wings and leave the nest. One of the most common traits of this particular stage of life is that most teens don’t want to stand out or be perceived as different from their peers. Peer acceptance at this age is of primary importance. Isn’t odd, that most of us could say that aspect of humanness never changes? The large majority of us are addicted to the approval of others. We want to be unique or special, but not perceived as different. The fear of rejection is probably one of the top five fears on almost everybody’s list. Truth is that if were to get ten “Atta boys” and one criticism we would agonize and focus more on the criticism than the ten compliments.
Rare is the person who is self-confident enough they could let history decide. Oliver Cromwell who was one of those rare folks. When a painter painted a portrait of Cromwell, who was disfigured with warts on his face, the artist, wanting to please the great man, left off the warts. When Cromwell saw the picture, he said, “Take it away, and paint me warts and all!” How very unlike most of us who don’t want our “warts” noticed. To be seen as different.
But to those of us that choose to follow Jesus Christ, we are called to be exactly that, different.
In the book of Acts, members of the early church are called saints. November first is recognized as All Saints day by the Christian church. This particular Holy Day is to recognize those Christ followers who have gone on to their eternal reward during the last year. When we typically use the word saint we use it to describe someone who is a holy person or is officially recognized as having lived an especially holy life by a religious body. But the word used for saint in the book of Acts has a Greek root Hagios: Which means different.
Followers of Christ were called to be different. Different how?
Radically different. But not as moralizers pointing out everybody else’s faults. If we make the claim we follow Jesus, we must take our identity in him, not from our friends, or our job, or social media or the rapidly changing culture and world around us. He calls us to do things that are, well very different from the rest of humanity.
Like loving our enemies.
Or Praying for those who treat us badly or persecute us. Gulp. Who me? Yes, you.
To forgive others, especially those who don’t deserve it.
To love others, yes even those I disagree with, unconditionally and to treat them with dignity and respect. With no expectation of anything in return.
And, here is one that would really make one stand out, to rejoice when persecuted for living this type of life, for speaking the truth in love for Christ’s sake. Not for my own sake.
Or for simply being brave enough to say in our secular world that our world view is one based on Jesus Christ.
I can’t do any of that without Jesus help. I tried. And I failed. I can’t be like him, without him as Captain of my soul. Jesus reminds me that my heart is desperately wicked and that I can’t trust my heart and that statement alone makes me different that most of the world.
Abe Lincoln said, “If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything.” And when I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I am guaranteed to be brought out all right in the end.
Which makes me different. And a saint too, by the way.
Be joy filled always,