Identity, Calling, and Public Opinion


- Jen Wise

Holiday travel is upon us and I, like many of you, have been inundated with checking the weather, looking at flight times, researching hotels, and coordinating with the appropriate friends and family members. It turns out that ‘going home for the holidays’ is a lot of work.

 Last week I was zipping along an online hotel search and paused briefly to read a few reviews of the top candidates. Breezing through, I saw the usual range of responses, however two in particular caught my eye. Two different reviewers had stayed at the exact same hotel, on the exact same night, each traveling alone with a child, but their responses couldn’t have been more different.

From the first reviewer, “The noise from the rooftop band was intolerable… we should have been warned. We will never stay at this hotel again.”

From the second reviewer, “My daughter and I loved our room. It had a spectacular view of a rooftop concert. Our stay will be cherished for years to come – thank you.”

I had to laugh. It reminded me of so much feedback I’ve observed and experienced over the years. If you organize an event, one person will say, “Everyone loved it! We have to do this again!” and another will tell you, “It was so overcrowded! Everyone was miserable!” If you buy organic food one person will think you’re neurotic, while another will chastise you for still using ‘regular’ shampoo. Depending on who you’re with you can be perceived as too uptight or too laid back, too unkempt or too vain, too boring or too wild, too outspoken or too insecure. And the list goes on.

Years ago I tried so hard to ‘fit’ whatever people thought I should be. Hanging with my super-chill, house-is-a-mess-and-I-don’t-care friend I’d think, “better not rush those glasses to the dishwasher! She’ll think I’m a nut case.” Grabbing lunch with an ultra-professional type-A friend I’d think, “Why haven’t I focused more on my career? I better at least dress like I know what I’m doing for this lunch!”

Somewhere along the line I realized a couple things. First, it is impossible to be what everyone wants you to be, in part because ‘everyone’ cannot even agree on what that is. Second, it’s far more important to hold true to who you’re created to be than it is to try to fit into someone else’s expectations.

I love this example of John the Baptist and Jesus, found in Luke 7. “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Isn’t it fascinating to see that public opinion doesn’t play fair for anyone?

The people who criticized John the Baptist for his strict diet were the very same people who criticized Jesus for eating and drinking and hanging out with questionable characters. And, this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill eye rolls and rude comments type of criticism. But here’s the thing, neither of them changed course. They didn’t make adjustments to make people happy. They didn’t worry about ways to appear more ‘normal’. They didn’t bend in order to fit in.

 Both Jesus and John the Baptist held steady, true to their God given identity and God ordained calling, even amidst the fiercest persecution.

 As we spend these weeks looking forward to and celebrating the birth of our Savior, let’s shrug off the confinement of other people’s expectations and follow in his pattern of confidently pressing forward into our identity as God’s children. Let’s live into who he’s called us to be.

Excerpt From: Restoration Living, Liberti Church. “2014 Advent Christmas Prayerbook.” iBooks. Free download available for smartphone, tablet, kindle, computer.