But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
I was created in God’s image, to image Him in a particular way. None of us exhaustively communicates who God is by ourselves, but He tells of His character and work through the story He is writing through our lives – the sin and brokenness, the promise and hope of restoration, the tangible tastes of redemption in part now and the confidence of sharing in His glory when the time comes.
As a kid, I loved to perform and would put on plays for anyone who would watch. I loved being in productions at school or outside of school, as the opportunity arose. Then I hit that stage of self-awareness where I felt embarrassed to be seen on stage or that it might not be so cool to get really into acting.
From first grade through high school, soccer was truly my passion. The feeling of driving the ball down the field, past the other team’s offense and through their defensive line was exhilarating. A good collision here and there increased my adrenaline and satisfaction that I hadn’t held anything back. Then I tore my ACL and cartilage and realized I was in fact destructible. After surgery and rehab, I returned to play, even getting travel to Germany to play in tournaments with my club team. But I lost my boldness along with my speed and agility.
At the end of elementary school, I was one of six in “the cool group”. Of course I was friends with everybody, but I liked the feeling of popularity. Then I entered junior high and all the rules changed and I wasn’t given the rule book ahead of time. I didn’t want to carry a purse, or wear make-up yet, or sneak out of my house at night. For the first time in my life I felt insecure and on the outside of the really cool group. I felt lost.
High school and college snapped me out of that moment of an inferiority complex and I came back with a full throttle superiority complex. Then after my junior year of college, God sent me for the summer to Branson, MO on a Campus Crusade for Christ summer project. My identity was as one of the group of people living in this nasty old hotel, with people in jean shorts who thought sororities were sinful, who rather than date preferred to “court” and I had to drive my roommate’s old, rusty Toyota to my job every day. As determined as I was to retain my distinctness from “these people”, God was determined to use them to show me my arrogance and total cluelessness about His valuation of and honorable love for people, including me.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:23-28
With the help of friends who know my story and can tell me what they hear, it seems God just might be calling me to “Branson” again, in a sense – not the real place of course. My deep resistance to being identified with this group or that group is indication of a total unfamiliarity with the person and work of Jesus. He did not come to be served, but to serve. He did not demand honor and glory, but gave it all up to pour out His life for His Father’s Kingdom rather than safeguarding His own. Because He was so securely encompassed in His Father’s love, filled in such a way that nothing could add to or diminish this connection, He could and did love others lavishly and without hesitation. He identified Himself not simply with victims of poverty and disease, but with Zacheus who was repulsive in behavior and attitude to the wealthy and poor alike. He had compassion on the arrogant Pharisee who publicly disdained the very people Jesus created and came to fully redeem. He had mercy on the Israelites who had turned from Him in Egypt, and rescued them from slavery not because of their merits but because of His.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1-3
It is just not going to work for me to live for God’s Kingdom on my terms. I can’t reserve for myself this area of my reputation or that pet affection and love others whole-heartedly. I cannot judge other Christians whose behavior and attitudes and political leanings repulse me or who I don’t think are as cool as I am and also claim to walk in generous and unrestrained love as Jesus did. I can’t fear injury and run boldly down the field at the same time. I can’t be intimidated by mockery and sing and dance my heart out at the same time. I can’t protect my social status and make myself nothing simultaneously.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Heb. 11:13
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:35 Becoming a stranger and foreigner and losing my life are the worst sounding ideas I could imagine and no matter what I believe theologically, they are the very last things I want to do. The beautiful thing, though, is that like Aslan’s powerful pull of the children into Narnia, I cannot resist His will, which in the end leads to far more magical places and fuller life than the reputation, knee or coolness I think I want to protect instead. What sweet grace and mercy that He is faithful even when I am not. He will work in me to will and to act according to His good purpose, even if I think I’d rather high tail it to Tarshish. (: