Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Non-Conformist Transformed

"Is a ‘normal’ child who is born into a non-conformist family a non-conformist?", my pastor asked me with a grin on his face. "I believe they might be," was my answer. This sparked a discussion that I have been thinking about ever since.

The dictionary defines non-conformist as a person who refuses to conform to established customs, attitudes, or ideas. But who decides what those are? Is it society? Tradition? Culture? Parents? Church? Government? There are a lot of different "norms" depending on the setting and the people involved.

As a teenager I rebelled against my parent’s norm on purpose. There were many reasons for this, some born out of hurt, anger and confusion. The result was a strong desire to be independent. I willfully violated their norms in part to see if they would love me anyway. I felt that I could not measure up, so I pushed them away, with their standards. All I had was myself, that was all I could count on, and so I strove to make all other opinions (especially authority) not matter. I refused to conform to anyone, because that would be admitting that they had authority over me.

Somehow I managed to grow up (mostly) and turn to God. The mistakes I made served to show me that I needed His authority in my life. And so I found myself a young, married, Christian woman – with a degree in Aviation Technology and a love for airplanes and engines. My husband and I had our own business in a very small town. I did NOT fit in with the women (Christian or otherwise) there, and I really did not care. I certainly did not try to fit in, but neither did I try to offend.

And then children came along and we decided to home-school. That made me pretty weird in lots of people’s eyes. And I wanted to have a baby at home with a mid-wife. And we got involved in missions work. I definitely crossed the line into a fanatical Christian with all of this! Did I do it because I refused to conform? No. I just did what I felt God was calling me to do each step of the way. Yet I was not conforming to my parent’s standards, or to most traditional social standards, even among Christians. But I did find the home-school community, and it was good to not be alone.

The last five years, as my children have grown older, I have found a whole new world. God has dropped me into a whole new package of "non-conformity". We attended a new, contemporary church for 4 years, and when it closed we went the other direction and now attend a much more traditional Presbyterian church. I found a passion for martial arts. And we bought a motorcycle – something I have always wanted. That makes me a conservative Christian home-school mom who is a black belt and rides a motorcycle to a traditional church. It seems I push the envelope of "normal" no matter which of those groups I am in! But I don’t do any of those things in defiance of authority – I do them because God calls me to, or because it is fun (and those two things are not mutually exclusive, by the way). I am not a non-conformist in these areas; I am not defying authority. I hope I learned my lesson a long time ago about defying God! But there is one area in which I would like to be remembered as being a defiant non-conformist, and that is where worldliness comes in. The Bible says in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…" As a Christian I need to be a non-conformist in the world. I need to have a different perspective, a different attitude, a different mind and heart – one that comes from God. God doesn’t just give me a set of standards to conform to; He actually transforms me from the inside out. My heart and mind are changed, transformed into something glorious. Out of my heart and mind, attitudes and actions will flow. Attitudes and actions that should be recognized by all who come in contact with me – the Christians and non-Christians - the home-schoolers, the karate-ka, the bikers – as something different from what the world has to offer. And so it’s ok if people see me as different from the norm, maybe even if they call me a non-conformist. But what I really pray, is that they will see me as a non-conformist who is being transformed by the Word of God.

Rebecca A Givens
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