The music boomed through my body. The auditorium was dark. Lights flashed over the walls and sparkled through the smoke in beat with the music. The song lyrics appeared and disappeared on a dynamically changing screen behind the worship team’s silhouetted figures. They sang enthusiastically and jumped around like popstars. The worship was exciting, it was dynamic, and it drew people into God’s presence in an emotional tidal wave. I loved it.
Thousands of people of all ages and types filled the church sanctuary. They seemed to love it too. They were worshiping God undaunted by the glitz and the glamour. The skinny jeans, distressed t-shirts, overly groomed hair and beards, and tattoos, did not seem to bother them. If any of the congregation thought the same thoughts as I was beginning to think, they did not show it.
I looked at the appearance of those performing on the stage and then looked at myself.
I thought, “I can’t dress as hip as these people. I’m losing my hair, so the hairstyle won’t work. Tattoos are not an option because the Holy Spirit convicts me when I consider getting them. Beards don’t suit me. I don’t really understand Starbucks’ menu – cold coffee is a faux pas to me. I don’t ‘get’ social media. And skinny jeans! They make me look like I’m wearing someone else’s legs.”
It was remarkable. In seconds I had thoroughly compared myself to the worship band and to today’s Christian culture. And all this before comparing myself to their level of performance.
My conclusion, “What hope have I got of moving forward in God’s call for my life when everybody else out there is as professional and glamorous as these people! What am I to do when the skinny jeans don’t fit?”
Is it just me?
I see many people my age and older settling into today’s Christian culture quite easily. From a distance you would not know a 16 year old Christian from one old enough to be their parent. Except for up close, when distance can no longer hide the laughter lines. Yes, the skinny jeans fit them. Yet I find myself struggling to fit in.
I participate in the church in many ways but what I see daunts me. It is like there is a disconnection somewhere. It is like there is a gap between me and the culture I rightfully belong to and want to participate in. I feel discouraged that I cannot bridge the gap and reach the level of contemporary Christian-ness that others have. For whatever reason, the skinny jeans just won’t fit.
For those of you who associate with my anguish, I bring you good news. Stop trying to squeeze your ample frame into those skinny jeans! Help is at hand, and it comes from the bible.
The story of David and Goliath (1st Samuel 17)
In 1st Samuel 17 the bible tells how the Nation of Israel is at war with the Philistines and their armies are in stalemate.
It was custom back then for both armies to nominate an expert warrior to duel in single combat. The outcome of duel would decide which army won the battle. The losing army would have to stand down defeated and the victor would claim the spoils.
The Philistines sent out their champion, Goliath the giant. He paced the battlefield shouting abuse at the Israelites, asking them to bring forth a combatant. But Goliath’s presence frightened the Israelites. There was no one in Israel brave enough to face the giant.
One day a young sheepherder called David arrived at the frontline. He was visiting his brothers who were soldiers in the Israelite army. Goliath’s taunts infuriated David, so David volunteered to go and fight the giant.
Everyone laughed at David’s suggestion, but they did not know that some time previous Samuel, the famous Israelite Prophet, secretly anointed David as the next Israelite king. Eventually the Israelite soldiers saw that David was serious about the fight, and they brought him before their king, Saul.
“Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!”
Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.
“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” (1 Sm 17.37-40)
There are a few things we can learn from this story.
1. We all have the same purpose and goal
The first thing we must recognize is that David, King Saul, his brothers, and the entire Israelite army, all had the same goal and purpose. Their goal was to win the battle. From the perspective of the Christian Church, whether you are part of the contemporary culture or feel distant from it, our purpose is the same. In a very basic sense we are to glorify Christ in everything we do and further God’s Kingdom here on earth. Each one of us has a call to contribute to this purpose. The question is how we contribute.
2. David does not force himself into the skinny jeans
When it came time for David to contribute he did not force himself to be like others. We see from the verses that King Saul lets David borrow his armor and weapons. David puts them on. Now he looks like the other soldiers and the king. He then tries to move around in them. He is now acting like the other soldiers and the king.
However, David does not feel comfortable looking and acting like his contemporaries and his leader. So he does the wise thing. He does not force himself to fit into the skinny jeans and be like everyone else. David discards the armor and weapon and goes forward with what he is comfortable in and knows he is good at. As a result, he is very effective. He slays Goliath the giant and wins the battle for the Israelites.
3. The secret of David’s effectiveness
David’s effectiveness stemmed from his identity, and his identity was not rooted in contemporary culture. His identity was rooted in what God said about him and who God said he was going to become. David was effective because he knew God anointed him through the Prophet Samuel for a specific calling. Therefore, his confidence did not come from looking and acting like everyone else. His confidence came from being the person he knew God called him and anointed him to be.
How does this apply to me?
1st Timothy 1.9 (NKJV) tells us that we also have a specific calling. It says,
“[God] who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
This verse shows that when God saves us he also calls us with a holy calling. Notice that the calling is not according to our works. This means that it is not the result of what we have done, or necessarily where our skill set and experience lie. Neither does it depend on effort. Instead, God produces our calling for his own purpose by his grace.
Because God gave us the call in Christ Jesus before time began it is eternal and it is part of a larger plan. Therefore, although the call may evolve and change overtime, we do not walk in it by improvisation or by trying hard with whatever comes to hand. God has given us a purpose and the grace is available for us to fulfill that purpose. Moreover, because our calling depends on his grace it means he also accepts the responsibility for it coming to pass.
We should find comfort in this, because it takes the responsibility of fulfilling our calling away from us and places it on God. Obviously, we cannot walk in blatant disobedience. But if our heart is steadfast and obedient, it does not matter if the skinny jeans don’t fit. It does not matter if we feel small and ineffective in comparison to others. It does not matter if we do not totally understand the culture and feel disassociated from it. God will ensure that we walk in the calling he has planned for us and contribute to his Kingdom in a way in which we are effective.