I have two questions to bring up in heaven. Not complaints, because we will have no complaints. And I’m not sure we will have questions. If we do, I’d like clarity on two topics: mosquitos and middle school. Was either one necessary? Wouldn’t the world have been better off without those little blood-sucking varmints and those in-between, off-balance years of middle school?
I was a nerd as an adolescent. Horribly shy. Had you asked me to choose between a chat with a girl and a root canal, I would have gone to the dentist. I had two bookworm buddies. We weren’t cool. We didn’t dress classy or talk the lingo. We studied. We actually had competitions to see who made the best grades. We sat in the front row of each class. We wore—hang on to your slide rule—pocket protectors! We were nerds. Which was fine with me until one geek moved away and the other got a paper route, and as quick as you can say “solitary,” I was. Bepimpled, gangly, and socially awkward.
I had one thing going for me: I could play baseball. Not great, but good enough for my father to convince me to try out for Pony League and good enough to get selected. Pony League, in case you don’t know, bridges those unwieldy years between Little League and high school. I was a newcomer on a squad of seventh and eighth graders.
The first day of practice was a cold day in March. The winter wind kept spring at bay. A blue norther dropped the mercury and bent the barely budding trees. Mom gave me a sweatshirt to wear. It bore the emblem of Abilene Christian College, a fine liberal arts institution from which my sisters had graduated and where I would eventually do the same. I was already in the car en route to the practice—my first practice with studly upperclassmen—when I pulled on the sweatshirt and saw the words “Abilene Christian.” I was mortified. I could not show up wearing a shirt that bore the name “Christian.” Cool kids aren’t Christians. The in crowd isn’t Christian. I couldn’t debut as a Christian. The odds were already stacked against me. I was a Poindexter and a rookie.
The confession of what I did next might result in my defrocking. When Mom dropped me off at the practice field, I waited until she was out of view, and then I peeled off the shirt. I wadded it into a ball and stuck it in the base of the backstop. Rather than risk being left out by the team, I chose to shiver in short sleeves.
No, I’m not proud of my choice. The apostle Paul was speaking to the middle school version of Max when he wrote: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
We can conform or be transformed. On that day I chose to wad up the shirt.
Esther and Mordecai did the same. They disguised their identity. They conformed.
Does it trouble you to hear me say that? We tend to see Esther and Mordecai as rock solid. She, the female version of Daniel. He, a steel-spined Paul Revere. They never wavered, never floundered, never shirked their duty. They saved the Jewish nation, for crying out loud. Carve their faces on the Hebrew Mount Rushmore. They took a courageous stand.
We can conform or be transformed.
But not before they didn’t.
Bible characters are complex. They aren’t one-dimensional felt figures that fit easily into a Sunday school curriculum box. Moses was a murderer before he was a liberator. Joseph was a punk before he was a prince. Yes, the apostle Peter proclaimed Christ on the day of Pentecost. But he also denied Christ on the eve of the crucifixion. The people of the Bible were exactly that: people. Real people. Like you. Like me. And, like you and me, they had their good moments, and, well, they were known to hide their faith.
Max Lucado, You Were Made for This Moment: Courage for Today and Hope for Tomorrow (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2021), 2–5.
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