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Recently I was thinking about the story of Gerald – he was a mess. Some of you may even know someone like him. Gerald was the type of person who changed groups and friends very quickly. During his high school years, Gerald switched interests quickly. Just to name a few, he spent some time being a surfer, a skateboarder, a punk rocker, and auditioning as a drummer in a rock band. That’s not all, Gerald also spent a bit of time learning to be a cowboy, signing up as high school band member, acting with the drama club, and even lifting his hand as a heavy drinker.
Gerald was like a chameleon, and he switched crowds often. Every time he found a new group to hang around with, he became a different “Gerald”. He was very easily influenced by peer pressure, and as you can imagine, this influence wasn’t always positive or safe for him. One day Gerald revealed something about himself, “I don’t like the real Gerald, so I am trying to be someone I can respect; someone others will like.”
The whole process of growing up is about trying out different adventures and learning who we are. Have you struggled to discover who you are as a child of God? Have you ever found it easier to let friends, family, or colleagues have the strongest influence on your decisions? The trouble with creating a false front is that it’s based on a lie. Trying to “fit in” can end up feeling as insecure and uncertain as not knowing who we are!
Every week, we are spend time with friends. Connecting with friends is easy; through phone calls, texting, writing letters, and being on Facebook or Twitter. It’s not uncommon for some teenagers to have over 1,000 friends listed on Facebook! Of course, the challenge in online friendships is that many people put up a false front. It is all too easy to never share an honest give-and-take about what is really happening in our personal lives.
One of the important lessons we all need to learn, is to be simply be ourselves. Insecurities are natural especially when we are young. They grow out of the slanted messages that we get from magazines, television, friends and even family members.
When we accept Jesus as our Savior, however, when we truly become active Christians, there are even better messages that come right from scripture. God made us just the way we are, and God doesn't make mistakes. We are loved, forgiven and cherished, despite any imperfections. Every hair on our head is counted, and we are loved.
Every Christian is a work in process. As we learn, study, worship and share, we grow in faith and in our understanding of God’s call in our lives. Finding our meaning and purpose are key. It’s not about the shallow stuff, like wanting to look like the “airbrushed” photos that we see in magazines. It’s about the deeper values that grow in our hearts and minds.
Truly beautiful people are those who learn to be themselves, “warts and all”. Outward beauty is really only skin deep. Who we are on the inside really counts. One of the secret treasures is to discover who we are and what we like, without being so influenced by peer pressure. Being our own person can sometimes be tough! Everyone seems to have an opinion about what we “should” do or like: parents, friends, teachers, co-workers, and even the commercials on TV.
In the movie, “Runaway Bride” Julia Roberts always preferred her eggs cooked identical to the man she was dating. As children of God, it’s not life-giving to let others determine who we are, what we should like, and what we should do in with our lives. It’s ok to figure out how we, as individuals, like to eat our eggs!
Back to Gerald: a youth group member invited Gerald to an event. At church he found a crowd of people who were very different from each other, but who got along well. He bonded with these friends who didn’t try to turn him into someone else. As Gerald became more comfortable with his new Christian friends, he began to open up about his hurts and past mistakes. They accepted him, and he experienced God’s unconditional love for the first time.
Who are we letting influence our lives? Where are we getting built up? What makes us feel rooted in God’s unconditional love? Is it time to get rid of a few negative friends on Facebook? Do we need to invest more time with positive people, places and things? We are each a work in progress, and God is loving calling each of us by name.
~Pastor JReturn To Pastor's Page