“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12.2 NLT).
When I entered high school, I was a little different. I moved around with my family as an army brat, and I experienced different places, cultures and ideologies wherever I went. I started my freshmen year with absolutely no idea of the local attitude or temperament of my new city and school. My accidental non-conformist behavior, speech and style caused my already threadbare self-worth to disintegrate.
During my sophomore year, I carried a small, bright orange 60s style bag as my backpack. I was the only one in school with this bag, and I’m sure I got a lot of looks. I didn’t care, however, because I really liked the bag. I felt special to have discovered it. It went well with my long skirts and my hand beaded jewelry.
I got a job when I turned sixteen as a waitress. I finally had my own money, and I remember my first purchase. I bought new leather boots that seemed to be popular around the school. Once I bought the boots, I started noticing the different brands of shirts and jeans that my classmates wore. Next, I bought a pair of jeans that were popular among girls.
The beginning of my junior, I begged my parents for a name brand backpack that almost everyone in the school owned. I felt overjoyed when I put my books in that new backpack, and I gladly left the orange bag behind. I grew my hair long and styled it like other girls. And I began to act like the locals, incorporating their expressions, mannerisms and belief systems into my speech and behavior.
By my senior year, I blended in with the crowd perfectly. I remember walking down the hallway with my trendy shoes, jeans and backpack, realizing that I finally fit in. I smiled, feeling my self-worth (which was rooted in people-pleasing) bustle up with pride. I clothed myself with the expectations of others, and I felt secure in my conformity. Without knowing it, I had given up exceptional to be acceptable. At graduation, I talked with a fellow graduate who had remembered my orange bag, and he revealed that he had always considered it an awesome backpack.
Sadly, many times we Christians give up our unique purpose because we are so busy trying to be like everyone else. We grasp onto a certain design and forget that God has an awesome imagination that is able to create an infinite number of complimentary expressions of His glory. God doesn’t want us to fit in; He wants us to stand out. When people take notice, we have a ready audience to hear about salvation through Jesus.
The only way we can realize our full potential is by not analyzing what everyone else is doing. We can be excited for all that God is doing through others, while staying focused on what God is doing through us. God wouldn’t waste a single life, and He has a unique design and purpose for each of us. We simply need to embrace our own symbolic orange bag and base all of our self-worth on God’s unending love and hope for us.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2.10 NLT).