Tonight in youth Ben talked to them about something that’s particularly important to me—about being themselves. Last night Jesse told us something that’s frighteningly true about his generation—when we were coming up in high school, everyone wanted to fit in by being “normal,” and today they’re trying to fit in by being “different.” When did being offbeat become mainstream? Pretty sure I irritated the Polo crowd for 4 years of high school because I played Ani DiFranco songs on my guitar in the talent show, tried dreadlocks for a week, and went to concerts on the weekends. Well, I know exactly how this happened. The mainstream youth are working so hard at being “different,” wearing bizarre clothes, getting weird haircuts, claiming to love music that’s retro, all hallmarks of the once “artsy” crowd, and it’s because they’re all so connected by the stupid media now in a way that we never were. They see people on the other side of the country wearing it or saying it on instagram, and that day can go shopping and emulate it regardless of if it makes any sense for them personally because, simply, it seems cool. Across the 8 miles that separated my county high school from the city high school in the late 90s and early 2000s, fashion, music, everything was lost in translation. If you had no friends at that school, you had no idea what those people were like. We saw things on TV, but we thought of it as entertainment, not reality. In high school, I was bored by the norm and so I took cues from the artsy musical set and did that thing. Looking back, there was nothing original about that, really.
I love what Ben told them, “God made one of you. There’s only one. You have got to be who you really are, who He intended you to be, which is unlike anyone else, uniquely YOU, in your faith, your beliefs, your relationships, and your interests if you want to live a meaningful and happy life.” Isn’t that amazing? Because of your beliefs, you might identify as a Methodist or an Episcopal or a Baptist, or whatever… But no one else on this earth can have your particular relationship with God, and that’s what the ultimate goal has to be to live a happy life, to change the world. He also told them, “When God sent Jesus to save us all, he didn’t say ‘Here is your savior, believe in him and be exactly the same as all the other believers.”
The world doesn’t need a hundred crappy watered down 2013 versions of John Cusack in Say Anything. You are far more interesting than a rerun.
On the contrary, let’s say your favorite place you’ve ever visited is Hawaii. Well about a million billion other people might say that too. You could be one of these real ‘unique’ mainstreamers and say your favorite city is some obscure town in North Carolina because that will make you seem like a real special hipster snowflake. Being yourself doesn’t mean being original in every thought and action, it just means liking, saying, thinking and doing what you really do feel. Like Hawaii best if you want to. It’s okay to be unoriginal. It’s you!
I wish I could somehow force them to absorb what he said tonight because it could change everything about their future if they never forget that simple truth. And following the blueprint God made doesn’t mean you’ll be this perfect, holier-than-thou example of faith, honesty and greatness. It means that you’ll fail constantly, but you’ll hear Him whispering constantly, “It’s okay. That’s in the plan. Now keep going and keep your eyes on me. I’ll help you.”
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 12:2, The Message