#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

offendable

It was well over twenty years ago, when I would I would dye my hair bright teal.  For the record, I knew that it would get some judgmental stares.  I fully anticipated it, and I also didn’t care in the least.   A few years later, I would walk into a tattoo shop and walk back out with black ink permanently embedded into my skin.  I knew that some wouldn’t appreciate the art I had etched into my body, but I didn’t care what people thought as a whole.  As of today, I have a few more tattoos.  Even though they have become more mainstream than fringe, I am aware of how others still view them.

I recall sitting in a woman’s home, having coffee, as we talked about the world.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened but the subject of people with tattoos came up.  She was very judgmental of anyone with tattoos, stating that if someone from the utility companies showed up with tattoos all over … well, she wouldn’t let them in the door.  I chuckled to myself as I debated if I wanted to take off my sweater and expose my tattooed arms, or if I would save that expose’ for another day.

Here’s the thing, when I choose to do something that is outside the norm, that is considered edgy or fringe, or that is socially disapproved… I am not only choosing to do what ever that thing is.  I am also choosing to live the consequences of that choice, including how others perceive me.  I will never scoff at their remarks or stares because, that’s their problem not mine.  I am not exactly sure where we got the notion that the world has to tolerate our idiosyncrasies.  Certainly I am not going to advocate for rudeness, discrimination, et’al … it is NOT OK.  I’m simply suggesting that one can’t go against the grain and expect zero negative response at worst… or curiosity at least.

I was watching a television show on people who are “fringe” and what was interesting is that so many of the people who had tattoos spoke of an unwritten rule that we don’t ask about each others tattoos.  Not only was I unfamiliar with this rule, I didn’t get it either.  I see every tattoo as a piece of art, it has meaning and purpose for me.  So please, ask me about it.  I’ll happily share what it means to me, or answer your questions (even the absurd ones).

Questions Like:  Did it hurt a lot?  (Um, yes.)  What does it mean?  (Glad you asked…) What if your weight changes? (Kind of personal, but I considered it…)  How are you going to feel about that when you are 80?  (If I make it to 80, pretty sure my tattoos will be the least of my worries…)   Or, the big question:  Doesn’t the Bible forbid tattoos?  (Let’s sit down and talk about that one… )

There are a lot of things that any person (Christian or not) could do that is considered against the grain.  And, when we make such decisions we should expect that someone is going to question us about it.  We should expect that we are going to get stares, and that not everyone is going to understand our decision.

Have a large family? Or a family of blended races?  That’s unusual for many areas.  Expect the questions.

Decide to dress ultra conservative?  Someone might ask you why you are wearing a long sleeve turtleneck, in Florida, in July.

Choose to wear a headscarf at church, or in your every day life?  Expect someone is going to talk to you about that.

Make a major switch in your life (in one direction, or another) and people will notice.  Anticipate they are going to be curious as to why you made that decision.

Decide to sell off everything you own and follow Jesus into full time missions?  You better believe that someone is going to think you are crazy!

Where I have noticed a growing trend is that when people make these “fringe” decisions, that make them stand out against the norm, they get offended when anyone questions them about it.  You can’t be IN the world but not OF the world, and go unnoticed.  In fact, the whole point of it is TO BE NOTICED.  That our lives become a living testimony to the changes that God has done in our lives, our families, etc.  They see us as different, they want to know why.  This not the same as putting on an act of righteousness, boasting,  and showing off how holy we are.  I’m talking about real, genuine, every day living the life that God called me to, type of different.   Where we are not putting on a show for others, but just living out our every day in a different way.

The questions that we are being offended by, and offering a slew of snarky retorts in response to … are INVITATIONS TO SHARE.

Yes, these children are all mine.  Yes, some are adopted.  Yes, we are fostering a sibling group.  Why did we make this choice?  Because, the Lord pressed upon our hearts that we had enough love in our home to share.  There are so many kids in our foster system just looking for someone to love them, a place to call home.

Yes, I do have a few tattoos.  Sure, you can see it.   Yes, getting one does hurt, some areas more than others.  What does it mean?  Well, this anchor represents the fact that I am anchored by my faith, the compass reminds me of where I have been & where I am going, and the dove represents the hope I have in Christ.

Yes, we are moving to another country.  It is hard to leave our home, but we realized it was just a building.  Our hearts are not here… they are a long plane ride away.  No, not everyone is called to do this.  We prayerfully considered it and brought others in to the fold to pray along with us.  God continually affirmed the calling with his provisions, blessings, and divine appointments.

We could be offended by everything, or we can look at it is an opportunity to share.

I can be offended.

~ OR ~

I can be inviting.

Consider… if a person can’t ask you a simple question… about the size of your family, the way you dress, or about the ink on your skin…

What can they safely ask you?

When you have been snarky and responded to their questions with contempt, disgust, or curtly…   Do you really think they want to talk to you about the big stuff? Raising children?  Adoption?  Abortion?  Gay Marriage?  God and salvation through Jesus Christ?

Your quick off the cuff retorts are not inviting them into conversation.  Instead you are pushing them away, you are letting them know you are not a safe person to talk to.

And if that is how you are responding…. What kind of light are you shining in this dark world?

Ask me anything.  I won’t be offended.  I will answer your questions.  Sometimes a question is just a question, a curiosity.  Sometimes a question is an attempt to understand a person, situation, or belief better.  BUT… sometimes… a question is an invitation into a bigger and better conversation.

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WE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO, BUT WE DO…

cpiece

A very commonly reference scripture, that is thrown around for a myriad of reasons, is “be in the world, not of it”.   We use the scripture to explain why we are to behave differently, talk differently, act & react differently than non-believers.  For many it becomes a badge of honor, when ever they are living a “holy” life.  This holy life can be everything from not EVER using a curse word, drinking a drink, homeschooling their kids, dressing your kids in certain attire, not watching television, listening to only classic hymnals vs. contemporary praise music, Christian private schooling, demanding church attendance or service, etc.

So, if you have your daughters, dressed with their long hair in buns, no make up, dresses to their ankles, sleeves to their wrists and collars as high as their jaw line…. and someone of the faith says “hey, why do you do that?” — Your defense is “Duh, because we are to be in the world, not of it.”

And then, you (or I) will get offended that we even needed to say something to explain why we are so “different”.

Now before you get upset with me, just set that aside for a moment.

In the world of tattoos, it’s a common to hear complaints about being treated differently because you have a tattoo.  Same could be said of dying your hair a different color, or choosing to dress a certain way.  You’ll find this same mentality amongst anyone who chooses to be “different” than the status quo.

It’s an interesting paradox.  We act differently or look differently than the rest of society, yet we want to be treated the same way.  We purposefully go out of our way to be different, yet get offended when someone dares to ask us about it, comment about it (especially negatively), or even goes so far as to mock us for it.

As Christians, we make the conscious decision to be IN the world, not OF the world… and then take offense when that gets noticed & talked about.  And yes, I could agree that we shouldn’t HAVE to explain ourselves, but when you choose to be different you are choosing to defend that choice too.

Going a bit deeper, there are two reasons why we are not to be IN the world, that is behaving, acting, thinking, talking, spending, et’al like the rest of the world.

1)  It’s about our personally holiness.  If we do not allow ourselves to be put into places of temptation, we are actively working against sin.  No one will be sin free, Jesus was the only perfect person.  However, we can greatly diminish our sin capacity by removing ourselves from things “of this world”.

2)  It’s about reflecting Christ to others.  Others will take note of that difference in us, and thus are pointed to Christ.  Why, we do something becomes more important than the actual act itself.  When others notice that difference in us, it will cause conversation.  In those conversations, we are able to plant seeds.

Will we be mocked?  Certainly.  Jesus, himself, was mocked.   But, there will be those who are drawn to that difference & want to understand more.

So, when you choose to be “different”… be confident in that decision.  What ever you are doing (or not doing) is a conviction, laid upon you by the Holy Spirit.  There will be those who don’t understand… and some who don’t even want to understand.  And that, is ok.  You cannot expect the world at large to understand, accept or respect that difference.  It’s almost like you are speaking a different language.

It’s equally important to remember that how you respond to those critics is being watched too.  It not only blemishes us, but also the reflection of Christ in us.

We may hate having to explain ourselves, over and over again.   We need to examine the circumstances of our situation.  If it is a new person, then we have to remember that while we may have repeated this info a million times in our lifetime, it may be their first time hearing it (or attempting to understand it).  If this is someone we KEEP having this conversation with, yes it is frustrating, but if they are still asking… they care.   They are trying to understand, and yes… they may be even trying to convince you to change your mind.

We know that the things God asks of us as a group of believers, or individually, will be tested.  There will be those who speak against us.  How many called Noah a food for building an ark.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if they understand.  It only matters that we are obedient.   The choice to be angry, defensive, etc … that is your choice.  Instead of being surprised or upset by it, choose to anticipate the questions and reactions.  It takes the sting out & you are more likely to respond positively to the negative reactions of others.

“Obedience does not require understanding.” (The Matrix, Reloaded)