Thursday, April 25, 2013

Romans 12: A Revelation

I have never fit in. It's a simple fact of my life. I was never popular and I've embraced the idea that I am weird. In fact, someone told me a few weeks ago that I was normal and I argued with him. The idea of being normal to me is tied up with the idea of fitting into a box and being a cookie cutter Stepford wife. Or whatever the equivalent is for a single twenty-something. So when I came across Romans 12:2 at Circle C Ranch years ago, I immediately clung to it.

Right there, in black and white, in the first three words of this verse, it says, "Do not conform". I clung to that command. Do not conform. Do not be like this world. It's okay to not fit in. It's okay to stand out. It's okay to be your own person.

I still believe it's important to be yourself. Later on in the chapter, Paul talks about using your own unique gifts and how each person ought to use his own talents in a way that pleases G-d. My gift is not money management. I am not meant to be the treasurer of my church's board of directors. I am not meant to be an accountant. My gifts lie elsewhere and I need to be true to them. (That's part of what I'm doing in writing this, frankly.)

The problem with the way my thirteen-year-old self interpreted this verse though is that she stopped after the first eleven words. Oh she had every word memorized. But the first three were what she clung to. When she was bullied for not dressing how everyone else did, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world." When she was accused (as if it were a bad thing) of being a lesbian since she'd never had a boyfriend and she had joined the Gay-Straight Alliance, "Do not conform".

She missed what the other three quarters of it say. To paraphrase, "Do not conform. Rather, be transformed mentally." She was so glad to cling to the idea that she wasn't supposed to look like the rest of the world that she forgot that she might have to change. She wasn't required to be clad in American Eagle from head to toe and listen to Top 40 radio but she also shouldn't remain static in who she was. The changes that should have overtaken her were more mental than physical and had nothing to do with popularity. She needed to learn how to relate to her parents without screaming. She needed to learn how to be a follower of Christ and not a fan of Jesus. She needed to learn how to seek His face daily. And she needed to learn how to start her journey towards being the godly woman He wants her to be.

If she had realized that, if she had moved past the acceptance she found in the first verse and if she had realized the transformation that G-d was trying to work in her, she might have found the promise found in the second half of the verse more readily. If she had learned how to be transformed in light of His desires, she might have realized how to find His will sooner.

She didn't learn that. But I am. At thirteen, I needed to be accepted and I found that in Christ. I found Someone who didn't think I was weird and didn't want me to change in order to like me. I found someone who never fought with me over stupid things and who only wanted my best. I found someone who loved me. At thirteen, I needed that. But I wish that I'd revisited that verse with fresh eyes a few years later and realized that G-d was not calling me to a life of doing what I wanted. He was not calling me to a life of doing what made me happy. He was calling me to place my life on His altar. He was calling me to offer my body as a sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1).

My life is supposed to be lived in a way that pleases my King. If I follow in His will, my life goes so much easier and I am happy. It might result in temporary discomfort but in the long run what He wants is best for me. If I let Him change me, I realize what He wants much sooner and I am able to say with conviction that I am living in a manner that is good and pleasing in His sight. I am able to say that my life is being lived in a way that brings glory to my King. I wonder what my life would be like if I'd learned this lesson before. That's a question I can never know.

What I do know is that I am learning now. And G-d has been good to me. He has arranged for me to have this amazing year, to return to the city where I left my heart four years ago, to make a friend there, and has lined up my next job, my next step. I don't know what comes after that. But I know I can trust Him. After all, He's gotten me this far. And if I keep letting Him change me and work in me, I have no doubt that I'll be able to see His will for what comes next.