When I was walking on holiday last week I became very aware of all the patterns and shapes in the plants around me. There is so much variety when it comes to shapes – shapes of flowers and plants, shapes of birds and animals and people, shapes of coastlines and mountain ranges. And there are so many patterns on trees, plants, shells, rocks, animal skins… I’m sure there are many more things that haven’t crossed my mind too. It got me thinking that God must be really into shapes and patterns. Maybe I’m over-stretching this thought but it really stuck out to me at the time.
You know those shape sorter toys that kids have? Well (like many people I guess) I’ve always felt a bit like a square peg in a round hole. Or maybe I’m a round peg in a square hole? Somehow I feel like the shape I’m supposed to fit in is more square 😝 and I’m probably not round but more of an irregular shape😂.. Anyway you get my drift. Why is it that when God made such a huge variety of shapes and patterns that we limit each other so much? Our tiny minds can only handle so many shapes and patterns so we try to make everyone fit into a few categories or types.
I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this. I guess what I’m saying is it’s important to find out who you really are and what really matters to you and be yourself. It’s also important to allow others to do the same. We need to stop trying to make people into clones of the ideal people we think they should be – the ideal parents, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, colleagues or whatever and allow for the variety that God has created.
‘Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.’
Romans 12:2 TPT
It’s very easy to rhyme off this well known verse about not ‘conforming to the pattern of this world,’ (NIV) but I think that what I’m realising more and more is that it’s just as dangerous in some ways to conform to the religious ‘patterns’ we see in churches – even the ones that don’t seem to be traditional. There is a danger of producing a string of lukewarm clones who smile and sing and warm the pews (or chairs) on a Sunday morning and don’t make any real impact on the world. I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like I’ve made enough of an impact.
I’m looking for that total transformation, to become a reformer. In Philippians 3:17 Paul says we should imitate his example. I think we need to be looking for more in our lives and in our churches. We need to be looking for better examples to imitate – be it your favourite Bible heroes or Jesus himself. For the majority of us (I appreciate that there are exceptions) no matter how nice or how good your pastors or church leaders are they probably ain’t no Paul. I’m pretty sure most of them aren’t living out Jesus words about doing even greater works than He did (John 14:12) or our world and our churches would look quite different. This is in no way at meant to be having a go at leaders – I’m not into ‘bashing’ anyone. I just think we need to raise our expectations if we’re really going to stop conforming and make a real impact in the world.
A couple of months ago I heard a sermon illustration that got me thinking. The speaker was saying if you found yourself in a boat and someone fell overboard you would do everything in your power to try and save that person. Yet we are surrounded by people who are drowning because they don’t know Jesus and we are sailing along happily in our little boat that is church – feeling quite comfortable and enjoying the worship, the fellowship and some ‘feel-good’ sermons and ignoring the people in the water all around us. We need to have the same urgency to do something about that as we would if we were trying to save that person who had fallen overboard. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not there yet. I’m talking to myself here (yes, it’s possible that I’m slightly mad 😜). I’m not the most confident person in the world but I’m praying for boldness and change in that area. I want to make an impact.
So whatever your true shape is I would encourage you not to conform – either to the world’s pattern or to the pattern of lukewarm Christianity but find someone worth imitating, step out of your comfort zone and make a difference. Be the person God designed you to be and not the person that fits into a mould designed by other people. And be bold! I truly believe that if we allow ourselves to do that we can change the world.