"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."Dr. Seuss
"You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note." ~Doug Floyd
Friends have asked me, "Are you fearful of what may happen to Nathan in Hollywood? Joel in liberal Boston? To Sarah and to Joy if they move into foreign arenas, different than their upbringing?"
Of course I am at times fearful and can imagine all of the terrible possibilities of things that could happen. I have no guarantees. But God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7) And so, even as I made choices that required risk, and taking an unknown path, so my children seem to be called by God to do the same, even like the choices Clay and I made when we were young.
Non-conformity and individuality
Observing a snowflake, or a fingerprint, we see that our creator valued unique-ness as a part of His artistry, as each one is totally unique in design from the other. From deserts to mountains, the jungle to the plains, everywhere we look, there is variety, diversity and beauty in boundless forms.
And so it is with personality. God intentionally crafted us in our mother's womb so that there would never be anyone else exactly like us, or with our puzzle of life or stewardship of gifts and messages. He values each one uniquely, even as I do my children, and intended that each of us had a distinctive design. And in that uniqueness, we know that each of us will be responsible to Him to use our personality, gifts and talents for the gospel, and to preserve truth and righteousness in our lifetime.
Why is it that we are all so very uncomfortable being different or individual in our stances and opinions? Why are we conformists? Why would we fear the judgment of the people we know when they may not really understand our heart or "get" the person God made us to be. We rarely please God and people at the same--a lesson I learned early.
Perhaps sin and the corruption of our soul makes us fearful and insecure to step out of sink with the crowd. People are surely like sheep, following behind the one that is about to jump off the cliff.
The rhythm and thunder of all the people moving together in one direction and at the same pace can be daunting if we feel they are going in the wrong direction. Often we fear the approval of men more than we value the affirmation of God. In the name of loving our rules and boxes, we become Pharisees in our own time, and are building our children into the future Pharisees of the next generation--especially if we pass on the idea that Christianity is a moral code, or a set of values instead of worship and obedience to the living God.
As we read in Proverbs, though, the fear of man--longing for the approval of others, brings a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25
Our sinful, selfish nature, seems naturally to conform. We do not like sticking out like a pariah, being different, standing alone. We long for a formula and for someone to just "tell us" what is right. And yet to live by faith means we will have tension in our lives--the assurance of something that we hope for but cannot see is a difficult thing to hold on to--it is oh so much easier to hold on to something that is concrete, even if it is wrong.
Yet, we also see in scripture, that often, it was those who conformed, who displeased God. In Exodus, When faced with the prospect of giants, even with God leading them and providing so many miracles, the Jews chose to complain, cry and turn their hearts to fear instead of trusting God. As a result, they were cursed to wander in the wilderness a year for each day that they had chosen to distrust God.
In contrast, God says that it is faith--the assurance of things hoped for and not seen, that pleases Him. Most of the heroes listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, were different than all the rest of their generation. Abraham went out not knowing where he was going. Moses followed God and led a couple of million people straight into the desert, which God told him was toward the promised land. David fought the giant in God's name in contrast to thousands of trained soldiers who shrank back from the same giant.
And so we see that God values our faith, our boldness, our desire to follow Him into difficult places--to follow Him wherever He leads--even if marching around a pagan city for three days blowing trumpets..
It takes more faith to believe in the dreams of those who hear the beat of a different drummer than to make fun of them or tell them their dreams are not practical. But the heroes of faith whose stories we read, were those people who followed God, and were not daunted by the fear of man. Hebrews tells us they were looking for a heavenly kingdom.
And so, I have experienced this dilemma--the tension between conforming and going the comfortable way, and choosing to foray into the unknown, while following God's voice.
The Lord led me away on a life that seemed always out of the box.
My personal pathways......
Even as a young child, I was passionate and a dreamer. I didn't try to be this way, I just was a dreamer. I was always questioning, challenging, wondering, developing into an idealist. I remember one of my relatives saying to me once, "You always try to find the weirdest things to do and then you do them just to embarrass us."
This non-conformity grew to be most evident when I became a deeply committed Christian in college. I shared my faith with all of my friends, relatives, and anyone God brought into my wake. I am not naturally bold in sharing my faith, but I knew that I had the answers I had been looking for my whole life and was so excited.
Then, I went on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ and had to raise support--something my family had never heard of before! A little embarrassing to ask for money, isn't it?
Then into missions to Communist Eastern Europe in the 70's to fight against a government that called Christianity the enemy of the state--"Oh my goodness, you are such a radical! Where do you come up with these strange ideas? There are plenty of non-believers in the United States. You don't have to leave the country and become a missionary to be committed!"
Finally, married another "radical" and we moved back overseas. It was then we dreamed of a different kind of discipleship for our own children--building them into godly leaders in our home, as we had been doing with others all over the world. Eventually we found a name for this choice we had made--totally apart from the influence of other people--it was called homeschooling. (really out of the comfort zone for most of my family and friends at the time, and even now, after all these years.)
Finally, we made a faith step to leave the comfort of a job with insurance and a monthly check, to start our own ministry to families with no job security whatsoever. (Now, you have lost your minds for sure, we were told.) We went 5 years before we had a monthly salary that could pay bills. The next 20 years, starting our own publishing business, conferences, writing books, moving and seeking to be stewards of those messages God had put on our heart.
And now, trying to start a new movement for moms all over the world, to see if we can, by God's grace, be used to change generations and to help heal families. What drives these dreams?
I think the Holy Spirit. We do become weary and overwhelmed with our ideals. Our lives have cost us so much more work than we ever imagined. Many times, we are indeed fearful of not being able to pay our bills. Our lives have not been logical or predictable or in conformity to the ways of most of our peers.
But still we have one more quiet time and believe that we only have a short time on this earth to influence our world and this generation for His kingdom. And then we have the vision and strength to make it one more day, one more year in our ideals.
And so, who knows but that those very people in your life, even your own children, might just be called by God, designed by God, to be a voice crying in the wilderness, a giant slaying youth, a Daniel in a Babylon.
We cannot say, but we must walk with God, depend on Him and follow wherever He leads to find the power of His hand moving in amazing ways in our lives. But, oh the joy, the freedom to be where His Spirit is blowing us with His wind, His ways.
May He give us the strength to embrace His call, His voice, His ways, that He may be lifted up--may we always hope for miracles and believe that He delights in answering prayers. Heroes were never known for giving up their ideals.
Avoid, at all costs, listening to the peer pressure of men. Do not measure your spirituality by rules or formulas. Do not live by arbitrary standards--but by faith in the living, active God.
Courage, faith, and steadfastness is required. May you give us grace and protection and strength as we follow you by faith, for our children and for ourselves.
A PS--It has been lonely and painful for me to have family members not understand me. Is that a legacy moms want to give to their kids? When a mom has an out of the box child, she either prays and asks God to show her best how to steward that child, and gives the child wings and freedom to develop the gifts he has been given. I have seen many women seek to force their children to fit into the box and the result is usually anger of some kind--hostility toward God and parents, rebellion, or poor self-esteem. Conformity for fitting in sake does not bring life and health. Selah