My husband, Michael, tells a lot of humorous stories from his childhood, and one of my favorites involves his middle school art teacher.
There was an unfortunate classroom incident concerning a mound of clay that resulted in the frazzled teacher literally shaking preteen Michael till his teeth rattled.
When Michael reported the episode at home, Mama Bear was not happy. She went full-on lioness.
Michael’s mom decided to confront this art teacher the next day in the busy after-school parking lot. (Every soul in the school was in that parking lot.) She cornered him, aired her concern, and they actually had a very civil discussion about his treatment of Michael. It ended on good terms.
It being a Christian school, the teacher said, “Let’s pray together.”
All three of them joined hands and prayed.
Right there in the parking lot.
In plain sight of every soul in the school.
Michael said that, even at a Christian school, praying with two adults in a parking lot was…shall we say, not helpful for a 12-year-old kid trying to fit in with his peers.
Even though he was raised right, Michael didn’t want to be seen praying out loud in public with two adults — holding hands no less.
For the record, now that Michael is an adult, he’ll pray in any parking lot, anytime, anywhere. He doesn’t care who sees. Thankfully, he grew out of that phase.
But sometimes we make it to adulthood and never really arc out of that immature mindset — the mindset that we want to look, act, and seem just like everyone else even though God has called us to be different.
I repeatedly fall into this trap.
Even though I’m Christian, I feel the need to resemble those who aren’t.
Why Do I Strive for ‘Normal’?
I want to be seen as a “normal” person who also happens to be Christian. Like people are surprised when they find out. “Oh really? You are? Wow, you seem so normal!”
It’s very important to portray cultural relevance, I tell myself. So, I binge that popular TV show, play that killing game ova-n-ova, and memorize the lyrics to the raunchiest songs in the Top 40.
I don’t want people to think that following Christ means that you can’t be normal. Tsk, tsk. Nobody’s going to accept my invitation to church if I can’t speak pop culture. I won’t seem normal.
(I may do this out of false piety. “I’m not too holy to have a few drinks.” “I don’t want to appear self-righteous, so I’ll laugh at that inappropriate joke.”)
But, what’s so wrong with being perceived as a Christian first and foremost?
A Peculiar Kinda Folk
1 Peter 2:9 says that Christians are a peculiar people. For the longest time, I thought this meant “odd,” but “peculiar” has several definitions. The one that KJV translators had in mind when they selected the word is actually “belonging exclusively to.” As in, “the scent peculiar to dogs” or “the quirks peculiar to 12-year-old boys.”
I am peculiar to God. I belong to Him — only Him. I’m part of a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” If I’m God’s follower, then I should act like it (especially in public). And I should be known for it.
For me, a big part of self-denial is cheerfully forfeiting “normal” in favor of obedience to Christ.
The world doesn’t need Christians who look like everyone else. It needs Christians who are dazzlingly different.
The world needs people who’ll say:
“I’ll pray for you right here in this parking lot.”
“I’ve never seen that TV show, but I’ve seen miracles.”
“I don’t know that song on the radio, but I know the song of redeeming love.”
Michael found himself in that parking lot prayer circle because he was a special treasure belonging to his mother. Am I willing to pray in a parking lot because I’m God’s treasure? Or am I too normal for that?
I’m called to “show forth the praises of him who hath called [me] out of darkness into His marvelous light.” A light that a weary world unknowingly craves.
When I lose my grip on normal, I gain the privilege of shining the light of Jesus Christ.
Next Time: Denying Me-First Fakery (to Gain God-First Fulfillment)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.