Working in youth ministry for 30+ years has given me a strong taste of what it’s like to feel odd. Over the years, I’ve received odd remarks, looks, and reactions for liking teenagers and caring about their lives. Some comments I’ve received:
• “You hang out with kids? What do you really do for a living?”
• “When are you going to get your own church and be a real pastor?”
• “So, you…actually spend time with teenagers? Why would you do that?”
It seems that being odd and being misunderstood is part of what men and women serving in youth ministry sign-up for when they follow God’s lead to love Him and to like teenagers. Being odd is just part of the gig.
In God’s larger kingdom too, being odd is also a part of simply following Jesus. In 1 Peter 2:11 we’re referred to as “aliens and strangers in the world.” Hmmm. We’re in good company since Jesus was odd too. In Him, God became flesh and lived among us, inviting us to embrace a foreign way of thinking; to exchange our focus from the physical to the spiritual, from the fleeting kingdoms of this world, to His everlasting Kingdom. He invites us to dance instead of walk; to be odd… simply odd.
But, this odd life is not for the sake of appearing weird. It’s not as if those of us who follow Jesus are required to wear clown suits to church. Being odd for the sake of Jesus is the highest of callings. It’s living an odd life marked by love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility, and self-sacrifice.
A. W. Tozer beautifully describes this oddness:
“A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen. He talks familiarly every day to someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another, empties himself in order that he might be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up. He is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.”
As it turns out, maybe feeling odd isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, perhaps if the world does not recognize the oddness of Jesus in us, we ought to consider why.