The first time someone told me I was cool was in 1991. I was in the 5th grade, and a sneaker brand, LA Gear, was at the height of its popularity. By some miracle, I came to own a pair: white ones with black and purple accents. The first day I sported my new high tops at school, Michael, one of the legit trendy kids at Coleman Elementary, leaned over his desk and approvingly declared, “You got some LA Gears? You’re cool now.” I’m almost positive I walked with a good bit of extra swagger the rest of that day! It’s been decades since I first “nailed it” in the fashion world, but the acceptance I felt had a lingering effect on my psyche.
The thing is, I am a non-conformist soul trapped in a people-pleasing body. This dichotomy presents an obvious inner turmoil: do I care what people think, or do I march to my own beat? For some people, the choice is easy. Let’s just say that, for me, the struggle is real! And the battle rages on, even as I’ve grown older and (somewhat) wiser. On the really tough days, the verse that keeps me grounded is Romans 12:2.
I’m not ten years old anymore, but many days I still find myself seeking the approval of others.
I fix my gaze on a closet full of (hopefully) trendy clothes, trying to pick an outfit that will garner a few compliments.
I scour Pinterest for the most eye-pleasing images to add to my boards. Boards carefully crafted, presenting a refined image to my followers.
My followers. I have followers. People who like, comment on, or share bits and pieces of my online persona. People to keep happy.
I shut my mouth when confronted with an opposing viewpoint. I only speak out when I’m pushed to the point of anger. And you know those times always end well…
At least that’s what I do when I’m conforming myself to the standards of this world…
Then, there are those other days. The days that count for something beyond my limited earthly life span. The days I conform to who I was uniquely created to be instead of who the world tells me to be.
I fix my gaze on those around me. I notice a tiredness on the cashier’s face and strike up a conversation. I bring dinner to a friend. I give up checking Facebook for the fifteenth time and interact with my child instead.
I scour the Bible for some much needed soul-food. I feast on His truth and hide those precious, inspired words in my heart. I renew my mind. I meditate on my Savior (Psalm 119:15-16).
My Savior. I have a Savior. He created me, redeems me, and calls me His own. I worship Him. I talk to Him. He keeps me happy.
I open my mouth to speak encouraging and uplifting words. When I encounter one who opposes what I know to be real, I do my best to humbly point them to Jesus.
And you know what? Those good days don’t happen enough for me. That’s why I keep coming back to Romans 12:2. Because the days when I’m focused on myself and what society’s standards say I should be, my mind cannot be renewed. I don’t experience the transforming, refreshing wind of the Holy Spirit. I look too much like everyone else and not enough like myself. People don’t see Jesus in me on the days I’m conforming to the world. They just see me. And it’s not about me, this life I’m living.
On the flip side: keep step with the beat God has placed inside you – renew your mind – learn what God’s specific will is for you.
If you’re struggling with acceptance, know that you’re not alone. I’d venture a guess that humanity as a whole is exhausted from all the fitting in, keeping up, and showing out we do. Maybe you’re ready to walk a path less traveled. What better time than now to do a little self-inventory…Who do you strive to please? In what ways do you conform? Are you invigorated or disheartened by the direction your life is taking? Do you want to know what the Father’s good, acceptable, and perfect will is for you?
Do not conform to this world. Be transformed. Renew your mind. Know God’s will.
Dare to be different.