I was raised in a conservative Christian home. This notwithstanding, today I sport over two dozen tattoos and several body piercing besides. I have long hair, wear tattered jeans and t-shirts advertising punk-rock bands from the 1970’s. I have been referred to at my workplace as a “walking contradiction,” even having been told by some that when first they met me they were rather intimidated, an impression they soon left far behind after getting to know me.
My beliefs can be summed up in one phrase- “existence precedes essence.” Who I am defines what I do.
I was home schooled until I was ten years old. On my first day of public school ever, as I prepared to walk out the door, down the front walk and catch my first school bus, my father said to me these unforgettable words: “Remember, you are different.”
That brief exchange has probably impacted me more than any sermon, seminar, or lecture-on-tape that I have heard since. I believe I am different, yet I also believe that being “different” does not mean “better.” I am no better than anyone else, I deserve no special treatment, no extra consideration. I believe that relationships, that people, are important. Institutions, companies, these things fall to the wayside when measured against a meaningful relationship with another person.
I remember considering exactly what Dad might have meant when he told me I was different. I think, had he articulated the entire idea behind the statement, it may have gone something like this: “Remember, you are different! Do not abandon the teachings nor the lessons you have learned in these last ten years. You will confront a multitude of ideas and must always keep your sights true! Hold fast to the teachings of Scripture! You are going to see people make fun of each other, put each other down, perhaps even ridicule you for whatever reason. Remember you are different! As a Christian, you are responsible for loving your enemies, doing good to those who hate you and must always, always turn the other cheek! Look for the outsider who has no friend and be his or her friend. Relationships last! Be respectful to the leaders at school, if someone asks you to do something, do it! Work hard at your studies, for a workman approved need not be ashamed! Do everything for the glory of God! If you are afraid, remember the words of Jesus ‘I will never leave nor forsake you!’ If something doesn’t go your way, remember the hard words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Thy will be done.’ If someone makes fun of you, or makes fun of the Bible, don’t be angry! The best way to see the character of the Bible is to look at the character of those who oppose it! God’s Word will never fade away! Remember, son. You are different.”
I have remembered that I am different. I use my differences to find common ground with whatever type of person I am around to engage them on a personal level. I believe people are important.
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