I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone begin a conversation with: “I’m not the typical pastor” or “pastor’s wife.” “I’m a Christian, but not the stereotypical kind.” “I’m not that kind of person.” Fill in the blank with your own unique role.
Far from the typecasts — consuming ungodly amounts of fried chicken (pastor), deftly mastering the piano hymnal (pastor’s wife) or pre-empting the notion of appearing judgmental (stereotypical Christian) — something about our nature wants to communicate that we’re different than what the culture envisions or the stage roles society thrusts upon us.
Deep within the human heart is the desire to be accepted while being “authentic,” to be recognized while standing out.
I wonder sometimes, beneath the edifice of authenticity, if there is a subtle form of pride. We all know rebels who like to “go against the system” and those who “tell it like it is” or “stick it to the man,” but the biblical notion of submission and identity goes beyond job descriptions, marketplace labels or gender norms.
The gospel account of two men praying condemns the self-righteous Pharisee (God, thank you that I’m not like everyone else) while commending the humble tax collector (God, be merciful to me a sinner).
Instead of constantly navigating the perennially unchartered waters of non-conformity, the Scriptures call us rather to a kind of conformity that looks less like dictionary definitions and more like calloused hands of a carpenter King — the one who laid aside His divine lineage and became a man, just like one of us. The carpenter who found His identity not by rebelling against the status quo but by transcending it.
One of His best friends, John, later wrote about his experiences with Jesus and meditated on what it would be like to be reunited with Him one day, along with everyone else who believed in His message and took up His cross: “Beloved, we know not what we shall be, but we know that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
I pray that the older I become, the less worried I’ll be about others’ perceptions of my role, stage in life or acceptance of my beliefs. I hope I’ll just want to be like Jesus and see Him as He is. Try fitting that scene in a stereotypical box.
Barry Fields is pastor of Hawesville Baptist Church.