I stood in a hotel ballroom surrounded by many friends and acquaintances. There were some I knew well – and some whose faces were only vaguely familiar – but I felt so much solidarity with each person.
We all shared a common purpose of going. We had counted the cost – and chosen to leave behind family, friends and the comfort of home to serve the Lord in foreign lands.
The song began. It was the first time I had ever heard it. As we reached the refrain which we (in good Hillsong fashion) sang over and over again, our voices got louder, hands reached to the air:
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my savior.”
I was so certain in that moment the Lord was calling me to something BIGGER. Maybe I’d go to the Middle East or North Africa. Maybe I’d never return “home” to a land where life didn’t contain the same kind of daily struggles. Surely I was called to do something really significant. Something really hard.
Yet the call was much different than I expected.
Over the years there had been so many times when I’d heard a whisper:
“I know you’re willing to go – but are you willing to stay?”
I longed to travel to foreign lands, to preach the Gospel to people who had never heard – and yet a growing burden was placed on my heart.
What about the person next door? What about my homeland that was already being counted out in missiology books as post-Christian and beyond saving?
The call was to come home.
Over the years, I’ve struggled with that call. Part of the struggle was the lack of seeming significance. As I talked about last week, it’s so easy to find my value in labels – in the things I do. But I think there’s another aspect I often want to ignore.
I’ve also realized that while in some ways, it’s so much harder living life on the other side of the world, in some ways it’s easier to live out my faith. If I’m called to be part of a “peculiar” people (as the KJV renders I Pet 2:9), it’s not so strange or awkward to do in a land where I was already strange everywhere I went. But it’s harder to desire that title in my own land. It’s harder to live with intentionality that can seem counter-cultural in my own culture. I don’t really want everyone to think I’m weird. (Even if I know I’m pretty weird!)
So often I want the call to be something grand and exciting, but if I’m honest that’s often more about me than about the glory of God. But the most grand and exciting thing each of us can do each day is to be faithful in the ordinary- and to be willing to be peculiar – strange, unusual, even weird – by following the peculiar and strange teachings of the one who has called us.
We might feel strange as we go to work and realize we have different values than our coworkers – but we are called to live those values anyway. We might feel strange in the ways we spend our time – especially when it means rejecting the hustle and bustle of what’s considered ‘normal.’ And perhaps most challenging, we might even feel strange in our churches. There are times our cultural values have become so entwined with Christianity that the truth is obscured – so even the friends who should be encouraging and applauding us in our weirdness are judging us for it.
The “normalcy” of the world around us can so easily entangle us and cause us to stumble and fall. It tells us we don’t want to be weird. It’s so much easier to be normal. We just need to blend in with everyone else. But we are called to hear and obey God’s words. Peter tells us: “ But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Pet. 2:9)
How is God calling you and me to be weird today – and will we choose to embrace it?