When Who You Are Challenges the Status Quo

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A_Bev-750I was my mother’s difficult child—the non-conforming one, the kid who never followed the pattern. There’s just something about me that hates having to corset my heart and Botox my personality in order to fit what’s expected. It’s not that I want to be different, particularly; it’s just that I don’t want to have to expend all that energy on not being different in order to satisfy the powers that be around me.

That streak of stubborness has gotten me into quite a bit of trouble here and there over the years, quite specifically when Rick and I began to lead our first church (and even since, although I don’t notice the reactions so much nowadays). I knew from my previous leaders and the sphere I lived within that women couldn’t preach or lead within the church, but I had this ability to make difficult things about life and doctrine simple for people to understand.

I was always trying to tread the line between what was preaching and what was just sharing, what was teaching and what was encouragement. It’s tough when your enculturation is so entrenched that your mind can’t understand what your heart knows full well.

On top of that, I noticed that there was a “game” that was often played in church. Who is seen with whom, and who is in favour with whom, and who could be counted on to always say the right thing rather than challenge the status quo. I felt pressure to play the game, be seen with the right people, be heard saying the right things, put a muzzle on anything that might be seen as thinking for myself, and generally experience what it is to bask in the reflected glory of whomever was the flavour of the month.

But you know… I just couldn’t do it. The enormous amount of energy required to push and pull all the odd bits of my personality so I fit in just didn’t ring true for me. I watched, first up close and personal, and then gradually at more of a distance, as many of my peers turned mental and emotional somersaults to belong to the In Crowd. It just seemed to me to take too much away from them. In that context, belonging took more than it gave.

The Bible says the fear of man is a trap. I think of the cruel jaws of the traps that are set for foxes and rabbits and other free creatures. When an animal is caught in a trap, it will often gnaw its own leg off in order to escape. Death is inevitable either way. It seems to me that our desperation to earn the approval of other people is like that. We get caught by our deep need for acceptance and parts of our character and personality become surplus to requirements in the context of the group we need to impress, so we start amputating bits of ourselves in order to be acceptable to them … and slowly our uniqueness dies … the bleeding away of what makes me me, and the tearing off of those things that reflect the image of our God.

Do you know, I think that if you have to be the same as everyone else in order to fit in, you’re better off not fitting in. It may seem unthinkable at first, but I agree with what the author Lisa Alther said:

The risk you take if you change is that people you’ve been involved with won’t like the new you. But other people will come along who do.

Authenticity is truthfulness at the very heart of who we are.

 It’s not just truthfulness to ourselves and to our sphere of influence, but more importantly, it’s truthfulness to the image of God we were created to reflect.

Nothing else satisfies like being an authentic Creation.

Nothing else brings glory to God like remaining true to God’s design.

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Image credit: neonove

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