Nothing highlights that desperate human desire to fit in and be ‘normal’ more than spending a little quality time with high schoolers. That innate drive to conform and perform only gets honed and sharpened during those impressionable and vulnerable years. And while we may stop consciously purchasing articles of clothing specifically ratified by our peer group once we graduate, we never really graduate from that subconscious pull of normal. But just as the fraudulent veneer of high school popularity doesn’t translate into lifelong success, ‘normal’ doesn’t guarantee joy and contentment.
Normal simply isn’t working. Normal is too busy and flickering on the edge of burn out. Normal is financially strapped and maxed and spent almost solely on selves. Normal is intimate without intimacy, closeness without commitment, and proximity without promises of true, gritty, and inconvenient love fulfilled. Normal is seeking mass, contrived validation and pleasing people instead of loving them well and hard and faithfully even when it breaks us right open. Normal is comfortable but complacent. Maybe a bit unsettled but unmotivated to change. Or maybe even inspired but still inert.
What does it mean to be weird these days? What does it mean to stand up and stand out? What does it mean to be truly countercultural in a sea of subcultures – little exclusive clubs that operate with the same rules as everyone else but with their own special jargon to sound enlightened? What does it look like to do more than join the moral majority and click a reaction button or spout a rewarmed political or social justice slogan?
Will I pursue God for a burden? Will I live for a cause other than my own comfort? Material items, accolades, and achievements make great gifts, great rewards, and mark great progress, but they make for terrible goals in and of themselves. To be honest, that raise, that promotion, that competition I won? I always found them hollow, a bit of a letdown. It always unnerved me that I wasn’t more satisfied to finally gain what I had sacrificed and struggled to get and that I immediately looked ahead to what was next instead of enjoying the success of the moment.
The real answer to finding purpose is never up, but down. It’s not topping the podium or climbing the ladder or reaching the upper echelon, but letting go and finding Christ at the bottom with the sinners, the broken, the lonely, the marginalized, the human. Abundant life is not gaining but giving, not acquiring for ourselves but expending on the behalf of others. We find healing when we let Christ take our brokenness and break us for his cause and give us out as his body, broken for others. We find true communion when we stop reaching over others on our way up and reach for them in Christ, through Christ, with the love Christ first showed us.
I used to think that I had to have it all figured out and then I could help others. I thought I had to get ‘love God’ right first before the ‘and love your neighbor as yourself’ would come into play. But can I really look up without looking out? Can I become more like Christ, who gave himself on my behalf, without giving myself to others, for others? Maybe that’s the weirdest part. Real living is dying to self, real growing is lowering my own desires, real healing is breaking my heart and giving my time and life for others, real success is choosing gratefulness in the small, hard moments with no applause and no immediate gratification.
“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” Romans 12:2 AMP
Amber Sperlich attends Mitchell Wesleyan Church where she is a part of the communications team. She writes to process her personal thoughts and meditations on the MWC messages and the text preached each week, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.