Thursday, October 16, 2014

We Need Each Other

     All my life I've tried to fit in.  As a "late in life" child, I tried to fit in my family.  In my childhood, little league baseball was a way to "fit."  As I grew older, the peer pressure increased.  There were more sports, greater mobility (translated driver's license).  There was beer and music and rebellion.  I grew my hair long, popped an earring into my left earlobe, adopted a hippie dress code, all in an attempt to find a spot, a niche, a place of acceptance.  It's a different context, but it's the same reason that kids join gangs, men join fraternal clubs, and women join book or garden clubs.

     That's also why I was baptized and joined the church at age nine.  It was revival time, my friends were doing, and everyone seemed overjoyed.  Why not make my mother the happiest woman in the world for a while.  BUT, I did not really follow Jesus or even know Him in a life-changing way until I was 18 years old.  Then at age 20, I was called to vocational ministry.

     Can I trust you with a secret?  I still tried to find a way to fit in, even as a pastor.  Most of us search desperately for acceptance.  Many, like me, are searching for truth, answers, and meaning in life.  Some turn to the church hoping to find acceptance, encouragement, and love.  Unfortunately, subtle demands for uniformity have infiltrated many churches and even spread through our American culture.  The education system and the government both seem to discourage individuality.  Perhaps that why I felt so uncomfortable and inadequate in ministry for all those years.  Even as a pastor, I had been trying to fit in wherever I found myself.  And when that happens, it's often rooted in a desire to please others, seek their approval and acceptance, and to be liked.  But that is not what God created us to be or do.

     The psalmist reminds me in Psalm 139 of the unique stamp that God placed on my life when He knit me together over 60 years ago.  Read it carefully and slowly because it says the same thing about you.  The apostle Paul reminds me in I Corinthians 12 that it takes all kinds of unique individuals working together to be effective as the Body of Christ.  We ARE unique and glorious creations of our heavenly Father, but He also created us to need each other.

      Several years back, God said to me, "Zane, it's OK to be yourself.  That's how I made you."  That's not a license for bad attitudes or behavior.  It was a reminder that from conception, God had wired me toward certain things.  My personality type, my appearance, and my ethnicity are things that are woven into me.  My contextual setting, my opportunities, my experiences, & my "teachers" throughout life will influence me.  The same is true of you.  My prayer and hope is that I can be as gracious to others as God is to me.  Our differences in appearance, abilities, giftedness, and methods are God's way of reminding us that we need each other IF we are to function most effectively as a family and as the Body and Bride of Christ.

     So just be yourself.  Some will appreciate you.  Some might not.  But embrace the you that God created you to become.  Don't look for the approval of others.  Always speak and act for God's approval.  "Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." (Matthew 6:33 NLT)   And remember, if you don't "fit in" because you choose to live for the approval of God, you're in great company.  Jesus Himself said, "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would choose to love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.  I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you."  
(John 15:18-19 NLT)

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