PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Thursday, August 03, 2006

 

Don't let that uniform fool you


One preconceived notion about deciding to be a Christian is this: the horrific prospect of becoming a clone. A clone of what looks like a clown. Find one serious community or a sect and you'll find a sea of faceless followers, or so the logic of fear goes. Submitting one's life to Christ seems to mean submitting one's life to conformity, to losing one's identity. Just take a look at the platoon of veils and habits inside a monastery. Or an ocean of humanity aping the classroom-teacher antics of a man in funny outfit (red polka dots shirt, purple bow tie) - and atrocious accent.

Who would want to be a Christian by paying the price of one's individuality?

I would not, even if it would save my soul. That's why I resisted for the longest time anything that had something to do with it.

Coming from a thoroughly secular university (no uniforms, to make an understatement), it was simply unthinkable for me to join a crowd of hands raised in a manner that gave goosebumps.

But eventually I would take this laughable risk out of curiosity and here I am, completely one of "them".

An insider status led me to the amazing discovery of how preconceived notions about anything can kill in more ways than one.

I would realize I had joined community because I felt confused and utterly alone with my beliefs in a world that fostered the virtues of individuality. It wasn't just that I was hungry for the word of God; it was that, with a world becoming increasingly inimical by the minute, I felt I needed to belong.

Out in the wide open, I felt like a foreigner, a lonely Tuareg in the Sahara. Almost everyone I know, for instance, wouldn't care one bit about the things that bothered me or I cared about - premarital sex, pornography, artificial contraception, abortion, death penalty, life, death, God. (Ironically, "the world," upon closer look, is just as guilty of promoting confomity, and a mindless one too.)

To cut this melodramatic story short, it was in joining a Christian community that I have found myself, my true identity as child of God, and my true mission as someone who would love, pray, revere and serve the Lord.

I would find that the veneer of conformity I had once assumed as mindless herd mentality is totally deceptive. I would discover that a Christian community is like a self-contained cell or a body where each component or part has a unique function and is therefore equally important as the next component or part. One member teaches, another listens. One plays the drums, another arranges the chairs.

Where would I find my niche in the complex structure, in the Christian ecosystem? It's a matter of where I'd find myself gravitating to, given my natural abilities - or gifts - and limitations that I had.

The area of Christian service makes the point we are pursuing even more obvious in this regard. My case, for instance, was one of plain or passive participation at first, a period of discernment, of patiently waiting for God to reveal my "calling" (at that particular point in time, at least).

I would eventually hear what it was, and, it was much to my surprise, though it turned out to make sense in the end.

The joyful discovery of a "personal God" is really not to be taken lightly. Personal really meant personal: You and God talking. I would learn that I am unique. I would feel I have a purpose, a mission in life. I would learn that I was "fearfully created". I would learn that I am loved for who I am. I would learn that I matter - even if I looked like a "loser" by worldly reckoning.

The more I lose my identity in Christ, the more I have found my uniqueness, my individuality.

4.15.2001


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