by Niki Turner
I walked out of the junior high and got into my mom's Jeep Wagoneer. She looked at me, then at my peers flooding out of the building.
"You all look just the same." She punctuated her statement with a heavy sigh, then pulled away from the curb.
At 13, her statement confused me. Wasn't that the goal? Weren't we all supposed to look the same, act the same, talk the same, dress the same? The better you conformed to the ideal, the more points you earned on the invisible popularity board. It would be years before I understood what she was talking about when she sang this song...
I carried my version of ticky-tacky to an extreme. I would wake up in the morning and move through my day thinking, "What would so-and-so be doing right now?"
I'm sure I drove my parents crazy... coming home and imposing the lifestyles and habits of my friends' households on MY household.
"We have to clean our bathroom every day, because so-and-so does."
"So-and-so cleans the table and does the dishes right after every meal. Shouldn't we do it that way?"
(Granted, at the time, we were experiencing household neglect in the cleaning department because both my parents worked like dogs. I didn't see THAT, of course, only the mess.)
Over the course of the next few years, I moved from one "clique" to another, some healthy and some not, transforming myself, chameleon-like, in order to fit whatever group I chose to be a part of at the time.
As a young adult, I applied the same philosophy to church. Find the leader, or the most successful member, and become a body double. Dress as they dressed, speak as they spoke, do what I thought they did with their days. Mind you, I didn't go to the kind of church that demands conformity, it was just something in ME. (I've since discovered the chameleon-like behavior is characteristic to women with Asperger's Syndrome. Hmm.)
It got even worse when I became a pastor's wife and the pressure coming at me wasn't just internal, it was external. After all, people want their pastor's wives to fit a certain model! The relief I experienced in laying aside that "hat" was tangible.
I still struggle (personally) with the concept that I am an individual, created by God for His unique and divine purpose as an original, not a copy. I still have to remind myself that I don't have to "fit" a man-made mold, I only have to yield to Christ. God loves ME, just as I am, whether I "fit" a man-made stereotype or not. God isn't into ticky-tacky people.
The individuals whose lives are highlighted in our Bibles are the ones who lived the most unique, original lives. Every one of them "bucked the system" to live the way they were led to live. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Isaiah, David, Hosea, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esther, Jeremiah, Deborah, Elizabeth, Mary, JESUS, Paul, John, Peter... name a Bible hero and you'll find an INDIVIDUAL who followed the spirit of God for him (or her) self.
Now I need to apply this lesson to my writing. It's tempting to seek ways to conform, to comply, to fit in, in order to fulfill the dream of being a multi-published, wildly successful author of New York Times bestsellers. But conforming to someone else's ideal will never (as I ought to know by now) provide the kind of satisfaction that comes from yielding completely and totally to the creative, unique, original spirit of God within.
About the Author: Niki writes fiction, nonfiction, blog posts, newspaper articles, grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. She can be found at her own blog, In Truer Ink, in addition to posting here. She was a 2009 finalist in the Faith, Hope, and Love "Touched by Love" contest.