A while back I was having a conversation with some friends about the different cultures just within this great country we live in. Then I watched some films that showed life outside this country and it opened my eyes to a whole new set of cultures different from the one I live in. Then I started thinking about church culture and all the different beliefs and practices and flavors that are available for one to be a part of. I’ve read a book about the different spiritual personalities and have thought about how those fit into…or don’t…various church cultures. We are such a complex bunch of people…the human race. You couldn’t fit us all inside one shape of box if you tried. Yet, that is the tendency to do to the God in whose image this complex group of people walking this planet are made. THAT makes a whole lot of sense…:/
As I’ve been pondering all of this it has occurred to me just how much we all try to fit into whatever mold we think we need to in order to fit in. The tendency seems to be to become just like the person you admire the most in your circle. Or may be it is a survival skill and you just want to become enough like your circle of friends that you won’t stick out like a sore thumb and be noticed. Or maybe you have just become so comfortable with the world you live in that you just don’t even really know who you are or are meant to be and you just take on whatever is going on around you because it is “normal”.
Maybe I’m way off base and I’m the only one that does that. My mom says this has been a “problem” of mine for as long as she can remember. She has always complained that I tend to take on the mannerisms and habits of those people I spend the most time with. That would drive her crazy when I was in elementary school. She just wanted me to be me and not my friends… (Hmmm! Not much has changed with elementary and middle school aged girls in all these years…)
This pondering about being transformed by the culture around me has come front and center in my thoughts on a number of levels. Yes, I am raising two girls who are at the ripe age of peer influence. That does tend to raise this mom’s radar about the kinds of friends they are associating with because I know how much influence they will have on them. I know they will become a part of who the girls become. Friends are like that no matter how old you are. I think it is a natural part of life. I think God knew that when he created fellowship. He knew all the pieces that would fit together to mold and shape who each of us becomes. But that is not where I was going with this…
I’ve been thinking about this on a much more personal level. I’ve been on a bit of a journey to get to know Him better. Part of that journey has taken me on a path to get to know and understand other church cultures and practices outside of the one I was raised in. It has opened my eyes to the heart of some very special woman whose hearts and faces seek after Him on a very deep level. Much deeper than I had ever seen or imagined. I have been a part of a church my entire life. I have been surrounded by good Christian men and woman all of my life. I have known others who love and adore their Savior. I just hadn’t gotten to know anyone on a spiritual level like I have over the past few years.
Now to the center of where I was headed when I started rambling….
My life has taken a turn. Our family has made the choice to leave a church that we have called home for nearly 15 years. A church family that we love and cherish. A place where I have grown DEEP roots. The decision was made through much prayer and discussion and seeking God’s will. Following after Him does sometimes mean leaving all that is good and familiar for an unknown place…just ask the Apostles. In my situation, it doesn’t mean leaving friends, it just means we will no longer be worshiping with the same set of peeps we have been for so many years every week. I have no doubt my days of worshipping Him with my old friends has not ended. Every opportunity to do that will just be that much more sweet and special for us. Our relationships go beyond the walls of any particular building and for that I am VERY thankful.
What the change does mean is that I will be surrounded by a new set of people who I do not yet call “peeps”. I will be worshipping Him in new surroundings…in a new culture. My world will not look exactly like it did a month ago. As time goes along, I will get to know the ins and outs of the new culture. I will get to know the personalities and quirks of a whole new group of people. I will expand the number of friends I have on Facebook. 😉
I will be faced with a choice….
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 (NIV)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. – Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
I used to look at this verse and think about the “worldly” people around me. Those “sinners” that gave into all the things of the “flesh”. I sure didn’t want to be like “those” people. Really?…self righteous!!! My mind hasn’t been completely transformed. I don’t live every minute of my life walking it out perfectly within His will for me. I DO find myself trying to fit into the patterns of the world around me even if it is a mostly Christian “world” I am surrounded by. I do participate in at least a few of the “sins” of this world. No I’m not proud…just honest.
This verse was part of a class I attended yesterday where the Spirit had a whole truck load of things to say to me… I’ve backed the truck up to my heart and am in the process of unloading it…
What was striking about this verse yesterday…to me… is that “the world” and “the culture” that came to mind wasn’t the “worldly” one, it is the one I come from and am going to. It was the church culture I have been a part of and will be a part of. It was the people whose faith I so much admire. It was the spiritual mentors whose lives I want so badly to emulate because I see their deep connection to God and I want that. It is a “good” world and culture. BUT…I DON’T want to be just like them. I don’t want to fit into the crowd even if it is a good crowd…even if it is a great crowd. I want to be like Him. I want to be transformed for REAL!! I don’t just want to be surrounded by people I want to BE like because I see Him in them. I want to BE like the One they are emulating. That is who I want to emulate. The One beyond them. The one behind the person I see in them. I don’t want a “pseudo-transformation” like was talked about in our class yesterday. I want the real deal!!!
I love the world I live in. I love the friends I am surrounded by. I am so thankful to God for these peeps. I am thankful to live in a country where there are choices about which church culture to be a part of. I am thankful for the one I have been a part of for so long. I am looking forward to seeing what He has for me in the next one. But most of all I am looking forward to His transforming work on the inside of who He made me to be!!