I was at a Christian College. I had longish hair. Go ahead, laugh. I’ll wait right here…
Done? No? OK…I’ll wait.
Now? A’ight then. I was in a class with a guy whose father was a traveling Evangelist. Very hardcore. All about the rules: Long hair is for girls. God hates it when boys look like girls with their long hair and flip-flops and such!
This kid liked me immediately. Kept talking about my long hair. And how I didn’t care what anyone thought. Actually, hair length had never been an issue for me, so it really didn’t matter one way or the other.
This kid was charismatic. He was the one people wanted to hang out with. He invited me and some others to his apartment. Just to hang. He asked me to speak at his youth group twice (he was a youth leader at a fairly fundamentalist church in Roanoke).
Which was cool and all. But he kept going back to my hair. For him, it meant rebellion against his Dad’s rules. Apparently, he’d really been taken to task over hair length. His Dad has made it a test of the faith (which is a shame. Grievous, really).
This kid lived his life as a reaction against instead of for something worthwhile. What I mean is this: the more I got to know him, the more I realized he just wanted to get out from under the yoke of his father and do the opposite of what his father had drilled into his head. He was living his live against. In opposition to. In reaction to what he’d been yelled at, whipped, shamed and humiliated for.
Turns out, my friend had turned to alcohol to deal with his unforgiveness. His pain. His trauma of growing up with such a demanding, perfectionistic, rules-first, never-pleased Dad. None of us knew. He was young. But he became an alcoholic. Last I had heard of him, he was kicked out of school for drunkenness after first being suspended. And going right back to it.
Here’s the point: it’s good to have convictions. To know where you stand. To know what you’re FOR. And what you’re AGAINST. Both. Jesus was both FOR (outcasts, hurting, humble enough to listen) and AGAINST (rule-making culture that makes God into a perversion, a caricature of himself.
A version of himself as a monster just looking to pounce). Jesus called out the religious leaders for that nonsense.
But…and get this!…Jesus lived his life FOR, not AGAINST. He didn’t live in reaction to, but in purposeful actions toward a goal.
I keep meeting people who’ve had trauma. Or took something really hard. And so now they’re angry. Upset. Holding on to the hurt, nursing the wounds and rehearsing their victimhood. And that’s NO WAY to live. It makes for a bitter, sad little life in which we try to convince everyone we’re better than whoever, whatever hurt us. And inside, we haven’t actually dealt with the pain, forgiven and turned it over to God.
And it may not be alcoholism that takes over. It may be worse. We may NEVER get the wake-up call my friend did. And instead, one day look back and realize our whole lives were simply a reaction to something someone did to us long ago. And that’s even more sad.
Forgive. “They don’t deserve it!” I agree. This isn’t about them. Let it go. “But I’ll never go their direction, what they wanted.” OK. But the point of life isn’t what you’ll never do as a reaction to some jerk somewhere. The point of life is living with purpose, eyes focused forward, making the most of the time you have. And God wants more for you than just reactionary rebellion against whoever hurt you.
OH…and if you need to smile…just picture my ugly bald head…with long hair. Brahahahaha!