Take a look at the picture on the right...That's me at 17, taken during the fall semester of my Senior year in High School as part of a special spread in the yearbook.
I had transferred schools to this one a little over a year before this picture was taken, and was pretty sure that I was invisible. I had my friends, don’t get me wrong, but I was invisible in the sense that I was one small fish in a great big fish pond, full of other fish who were much cooler, much more popular, and much more...everything...than I was. Plus, they had all been together for years before I arrived on the scene.
I was a nobody, at best. Easily ignored, blending into the background, moving on the outside of the circles and cliques in school.
And I kind of liked it that way. I was just coming out on the other side of a pretty bad bought of bullying, wherein my daily life was tormented by a girl who used to be my friend, so being an invisible nobody was a good thing. I could be who I was, authentically me, and not worry about trying to fit in or be who or how other people expected me to be.
And so I did my own thing and I was my own person...and I didn’t worry much about what other people thought or said about me (because I was mostly convinced that they didn’t).
So, you can imagine my surprise when the results of the Senior Superlatives Survey came out (you know, that survey of sorts that goes into the Senior section of the high school yearbook, where the Senior class votes on who they think is going to be the most successful, who is the prettiest, who is going to be the first married...that sort of thing), and I found that I had been “honored” with a Superlative.
Take a look at the caption from the next page of the yearbook, shall we?.
I remember thinking, “Well, I guess I’m not invisible! I must have made some sort of an impression on the rest of my class.” It was an odd point of pride, I think, to be noticed when I thought that I was so invisible.
But, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel that it was some kind of insult. A slap in the face.
Like, “Ooh, look, there’s Leanne...she’s so weeeirrrrd!”
In our culture and society, “weird” is a term that usually is intended to convey something quite negative. “Normal” is good, “extraordinary” (“normal” with a gold star) is better...“weird” is quite bad. If something is “weird” then it is bizarre, freakish, so strange and out of the ordinary that it’s to be disdained and set aside.
Suddenly, I did care about what people thought about me. A whole lot.
I wondered and worried and fretted: Why did they think I was weird? Was it the way that I dressed? Was it the way that I acted? Was it the way that I talked or thought or...What was it about me that was so incredibly weird that I was being held up as the weirdest girl in the senior class?
I stopped being so carefree about being authentically me, and went out of my way to prove to people (and myself) that I didn’t care what they thought about me by being an exaggerated caricature of me (read: I got even weirder). It was almost like I was saying to the world, “You think I’m weird? I’ll show you weird,” putting up a front so that I got to be classified as “weird” on my own terms, instead of it being a label slapped on me by others.
It took me a long time to get over it, to pull back the act and start being me again. But, today, the Leanne that you see is the Leanne that I am. No acts, no pretending, no masks, no pretentions. Just me. Authentically me.
And, nearly 20 years later, I’m still weird. It’s true. I am. I am weird.
But you know what? It’s not just me.
We’re all a little weird.
And that’s okay...because, despite what my high school self thought, and despite how our society deems it and terms it, I believe that being weird just means being different in some way. Having something about you that doesn’t fit the “norm” that our culture or society sets out. And the flat out truth is that no matter what, there is something about you that is “weird”. That doesn’t “fit.”
You’re “weird” if you’re a high school kid who listens to old-school jazz.
You’re “weird” if you’re a college student who gets up early on Sunday mornings to go to church.
You’re “weird” if you’re a stay-at-home-dad who takes the kids to the zoo while mom is at the office; you’re “weird” if you’re that mom at the office while dad is at the zoo with the kids.
You’re “weird” if you are a boy who is a ballet dancer or a girl who plays football.
You’re “weird” if you don’t want to get married, or if you do but don’t want to have kids, or if you do and want to have many, many kids.
You’re “weird” if you look, dress, walk, talk, dance, think, act different than what our society, culture, or peer group tells us is how we should.
And that’s okay...because we are who God created us to be, differences, even weirdness, and all.
In the first story of creation, found in Genesis 1, we are told that, when God created human beings, God created them in God’s own image and likeness. And when God looked at the human beings that were created, God saw that we were very good.
More than that, the Psalmist writes in Psalm 139 that God not only created us and built us into who we are and that we are “wonderfully and fearfully made” (v.14), but that God is intimately acquainted with our everyday lives and actions (v.3), with us and in us in all that we do (and that, perhaps, God has foreseen/predestined what we are going to do...but I’ll leave that discussion for another time).
And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 that each of us is gifted with different gifts and talents and abilities and skills, activated by the Spirit for the common good as the Spirit chooses (vv.4-7,11).
Time and again, throughout scripture, we are told that God made us as beautiful reflections of God’s image and likeness in this world, that we are gifted and commissioned by God through the Spirit to do the tasks and the work that God calls us to, and that God is with us and in us in our daily journeys and works and lives...
If we believe in that, how can being “weird” be anything but being who God has called, sent, and ordained us to be in this world for God’s purpose?
I’m glad to be weird, because I am glad to be who God created me to be. Being weird has enabled me to do the things that I have been called to in this world, in my work and in my relationships with others. Being weird has allowed me to be open to seeing and embracing when others don’t fit the norms and boxes of this world, and instead see them as God sees them.
I am glad to be weird, because I am glad to be who God created me to be.
I hope that you embrace who God has made you to be, too, weirdness and all, you beautiful, wonderful, amazing image of God’s likeness in this world, you.
**Thoughts published here are mine and mine alone, and may or may not represent the thoughts or opinions of Southern Heights Presbyterian Church, Homestead Presbytery, Synod of Lakes and Prairies, or the Presbyterian Church (USA)**
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