Thursday, May 1, 2014

"We Are Marshall"

“We Are Marshall”

Lately Papa has been speaking to me a lot about conformity. What is it about our psyche that longs to be a part of a collective whole? Longs to fit in, to have a group to identify with, a tribe to run with, a pack?

Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. It’s an action in accordance with some specified standard or authority.

One only has to take a glimpse at our society to see conformity everywhere. I’m republican. I’m a democrat. I’m libertarian. I’m pro-choice. I’m pro-life. I’m Protestant. I’m Catholic. I’m Lutheran. I’m a Calvinist. To claim my place in any of these camps immediately identifies me with a party line, a belief system, an ideology. “And what’s so wrong with that,” one might ask.

What is wrong with that? Or… is there something inherently woven into our DNA that calls us to the idea of being a part of something bigger than ourselves? I think the answer lies in the middle and the extremes have been a huge detriment to our society and continue to perpetuate a great disservice to mankind.

When I embrace a conformity-based system, I inherently lose my own personal voice and opinion to the party line. Even if I differ in my opinion, personal beliefs, and thought process, for the sake of appearances, I am going to say what the party says and do what the party does. My freedom is lost as a result of my choice to conform.

The danger of conformity is that it’s easy to become a parrot instead of a thinker. As a Christian, I’ve seen this often in Christian circles. We speak Christianese and tout Christian phrases and idioms. Often without examining what they mean or even more importantly, if we actually believe and agree with what we’re saying. Am I conforming to the language of my party or do I truly believe this? If you were to slice me open, step on my toe, put me in an extreme situation, at the core of who I am – what would rise to the surface? If my default response and belief is not the phrases I’m parroting then I’m not being true to myself. I’m simply conforming to fit in and be accepted.

Conformity exists because it gives us a comfort zone. Essentially, it makes us feel safe. I remember once a church leader telling my husband and I that he needed his elders to think like him. His need mimics a very real heart cry in our society. The fear of being different has created polarization, cliques, sects, perpetuated racism, sexism, and classism and limited healthy dialogue.

I’m guilty of this and I know it. It was actually inside of my own parenting and His that God began to speak to me about conformity. Doug and I have four beautifully, brilliant kids. We call our family, Murrell Tribe. During our kid’s formative years, we proudly displayed our family’s coat of arms in the playroom and chanted our family slogan, “We are the Murrell’s. We stand for honesty, integrity and service. We are HIS and He is Jesus Christ.”

Often as our kids would leave the home for social events and outings, you could catch either Doug or I looking one of the kids in their eyes and parroting the parental line, “You’re a Murrell. Remember who you are and what we stand for.”
One day in my quiet time, Papa God brought this back to my mind and Holy Spirit asked me, “Felicia, what happens if one of your kids decides they no longer want to stand for honesty, integrity or service? Do they stop being Murrell’s?”

Startled by the inquisition, I pondered. Then I answered, “No, they will also be Murrell’s.” To which He replied, “this is the downfall of conformity. It requires you to act a certain way, perform certain tasks, believe certain things to be accepted that may be completely at odds with who you truly are.” Quietly, I continued to listen and He continued, “Man has been created in Our image and Our likeness. Often you all say, ‘when you see the Three, you see One and to see One is to see Three,’ and there is truth to that. Father, Jesus and I are separate, unique and intimately distinct. We live in complete submission to one another. There is love, delight, mutual affection and togetherness amongst the three of us. But Father has never asked Me to be Him. Who I am is distinctly different from who Father is and who Jesus is. Without any One of us though, the circle would be broken. There would be lack. And we feel in Our hearts the same about you.”

“To conform is to act or appear a certain way to be like someone else. It’s when you change what you believe to what someone else believes to fit in. Most people don’t realize they are conforming because the heart longs to fit. Everyone was created with a sense of longing to discover home.” I paused to digest this truth encounter.

I then asked, “If we were created to be like Jesus, what’s the difference between conforming and being transformed?” Holy Spirit replied, “Conforming is something man does. It is an outward change, a cover up of one’s true self. Transformation is God bred from the inside and generates a whole new man. Transformation is your agreement body, soul and spirit with Father’s identity and DNA code that He knit into you from the beginning of time. It’s simply you becoming whom you were created to be.”

Not wanting to miss the depth of what Spirit was teaching me, I asked Him to continue. Holy Spirit said, “The evil one has caused mankind to fear individuality. And yet, there is a longing in the hearts of men to be individuals, to be seen and to be known. We placed that there. This is the stirring of relationships. This is the invitation to enter our circle of togetherness, mutual affection, delight and love.”

Where there is love, there is respect. Where there is love, there is honor. Where there is love, there is freedom.  It is love that breeds life and love that gives people permission to be uniquely them. Love says you don’t have to believe like I do to be accepted by me. Love says you don’t have to think like I do or do the same things I do or live your life the way I live mine to be accepted by me. Love allows me to love the person in front of me void of any demands of conformity. Love says I don’t need you to be like me to feel safe with you.

I’m challenged everyday in my living this out. I want to give my kids a sense of identity, a sense of belonging. But I realize that the only life giving, fruit-bearing connection I can hand them is to connect them to Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. It is Father who gives identity to each one of us individually. It is Father, who so loves our uniqueness that He created several stars, different colors, random shades of skin, two genders. Just as random stars grouped together form constellations and multiple hues of color form a rainbow, in the collective whole, there is distinct individuality. And yet together in our unity, we create a spectacular display of His splendor.

Contrast my parenting as described above with that of Father God. Jesus was so uniquely Him. So much so, that He deeply offended the religious right of His day. They were angry to the point of murder, wanting to crucify One so starkly different and individual. But what a picture of freedom, of permission to be unique, of what it looks like to love the person in front of you even if they aren’t like you or have the same values as you. This is the Son Papa created. This is the Son in whose image you and I are created. And this is the tribe I want to be connected to: Father, Son and Spirit, the tribe of the free, the tribe of love.

Tis true that we all have been created to be a part of something greater than ourselves. But that something isn’t any man made system that exists in our society. Form over function is like choosing façade over appearance. Zoe, the God kind of life only flows through Agape, unconditional love. We have all been created to be in relationship with Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. In that relationship, conformity is not demanded or required. In that relationship is limitless freedom and abounding love.

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