Who You Are Is Up to God

A spiritual look at issues of interest to young people

Sometimes someone feels the worst thing that can happen is to be judged "different" by other people. "You talk funny. You're strange," kids in school sometimes say. Or, "Those shoes are a joke. You definitely are weird." Often no one will be friends with, or even talk to, people who don't fit in perfectly.

As you probably know, things can get even worse. Suppose you live in a place where everyone is part of a gang, like the Crips or the Bloods. Then, for someone who's different, everyday life can turn violent.

Why do you think people make such an issue about never being different? Maybe it's because conforming means they'll be popular. Or at least, if they are like everyone else, they will probably be ignored instead of given grief. That popular group might become a person's whole world. Friends "buffer" people from new or frightening things coming along in life. Belonging to the in-group, even if it's made up of people you don't know well, brings prestige. But there are times when it's hard to agree with what friends want us to do. They may want us to do things that we feel deeply are just not right for us. Should we go along with them just to stay friends? If we do, we'll hide who we really are. Our identity will be determined by whatever the group wants. Who we are is valuable and important. And sometimes we need to protect who we are.

Who you really are is up to God. God has created everyone to be expressive of Him. Even though we call God a "Him" or sometimes a "Her," God is pure, divine Spirit-not physical or limited. God is also Love. God creates each of us spiritually, to reflect Him. We reflect God in individual ways, no two ever alike. Each one of us is an individual, spiritual expression of the one God. We could not be flawed any more than God could be.

Allowing a group to think for us only keeps our spiritual identity from shining through. If we have to separate ourselves from the group sometimes and listen for God's guidance alone, that's OK. In the Bible, Jesus Christ said it this way: "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6).

When "thy Father," the loving God, rewards you openly, that reward can come in many forms. It may be peace. It may be direction. It may be physical protection or healing. Whatever form it takes, you'll feel God's love as you accept it as yours. Some people may understand why you aren't following the direction the rest of the group is taking, and some may not. That's OK. It really is. It has been said that being one with God is being with the majority.

On my baseball team in college, many of my friends got drunk. They drank at night. After practice. Sometimes even in the morning. Some of them tried to force me to drink one time-and I mean physically. There was no way I could escape them. But I felt deep down that they respected why I was different from the rest. Many of them knew that God was important to me, and that I didn't drink because it would keep me from hearing His voice. And two guys started telling the rest of them to stop it. They did.

By the time I graduated, about a third of them had stopped drinking altogether. I had never said anything to anyone about maybe doing that-instead, I think they saw that I was having fun without drinking. A few years later some of us met at a wedding, and I noticed they hadn't started up drinking again either. We had a great time together, and that's how it usually is with friends. Happiness and good times are natural to us, God's reflection. The textbook of Christian Science says: "Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 57).

So being different isn't always all that bad. Not running with the herd can be invigorating. You are free to be yourself, good and loving and spiritual, the way God has created you to be. The world needs your purity and innocence, your love and honesty. Without them, something essential would be missing-namely your individual expression of God.

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