Including today’s post, I have fifteen more posts to write before I am done blogging through the book 100 Days to Brave. It’s been an interesting journey. It’s been an educational journey. It’s been a journey full of sadness and of joy. And it’s been a journey where I’ve learned about myself and my faith. Today’s post has been on my mind for a few days, and it’s almost a relief to get the words out of my brain and onto the screen. Be patient with me. It might not make sense at first, but I promise, I will pull it all together by the end.
I heard a story a few weeks ago. Someone was telling me how they didn’t like to talk about what they were interested in because no one around them was interested in it. They thought Jesus might think they were rude if they weren’t focused on their friends’ interests and concerns. My first thought was, ‘Wow! This person really gets it. They could be the poster child for teaching others what it means when Scripture says we’re supposed to deny ourselves.’ Just as I was recovering from this thought though and from what I thought this person could teach me, they said something that struck me. They were lonely. Now, I’m not saying they didn’t have anything at all in common with this group of people. They share the same faith; they share some similar interests; they like spending time together. But, it wasn’t enough for this person not to feel lonely. They even told me they were looking forward to branching out in the next few months and meeting other people who shared their interests.
This got me thinking because I’ve often felt this way in a group of people. Lonely. Odd. Weird. Different. We all come at faith and denial of self differently because, well, we are different. God made each of us differently. But, is there such a thing as being too different in the church to be accepted for who we are as a person? Should we have to deny ourselves completely to be accepted? There shouldn’t be a thing as being too different, but sadly enough, I think there is. Some differences are okay, but when the differences get to be noticeable, rejection happens. We are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand so we avoid it.
I think about the differences that are noticeable and the ones that are not so noticeable. I think about the ones I know who have left the church because they were too different and not accepted because of it. I think about the ones who don’t come that often because they haven’t been able to connect with others because of their differences. And I think about those of us who make the effort week after week though we are lonely within the crowd and not even sure we are making a difference by being there. (That would be me.) My mind wants to understand why this happens, but I don’t think I’ll know for sure until I see Jesus.
So, what does all this have to do with denial of self and being brave enough to be different? First, I get the part about not being selfish. I Timothy 6:18-19 says, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” God doesn’t want us to be selfish. I agree with this and embrace it, but it’s not what I’m trying to say.
Scripture also gives us several examples of putting off our old self and sinful nature. From Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Of course, I agree with this. We’re supposed to put off our sinful natures each and every day so we can become more like God. We won’t be totally successful until our journey here is done, but we’re supposed to keep trying anyway. I also embrace this, but it’s not what I’m trying to say either.
I guess what I mean is deny ourselves and embrace our differences. The church should make sure all know they are welcome. Race, gender, physical illness (Even the ones that can’t be seen.), mental illness (Those definitely can’t be seen.), financial status, marital status, occupation, age, different interests–none of those things that make us different should manner. None of them! We should embrace Jesus and embrace what all of us bring to the table. But until that happens, I will be brave enough to be different out loud so that others will know they aren’t alone.
Praying God’s blessings on you all today!