I know your works:you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Rev 3:15-16
Cold or hot. I remember the time when the music I heard was called “middle of the road”. No edges. Could be listened to in just about any environment, especially the elevator of a mall. Nobody would mind, nobody would notice. It’s just there. We think it is safe. Yes, there will be no complaints, but:
Walk on road, hmmmmmm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later get squished just like grape. Mr. Miyagi, Karate Kid
When I was in high school, I listened to this type of music, true. But the environment did not appreciate it. I was in an all boys boarding home, and the music style of the day was harder. Much harder. AC/DC harder. Thus, I believed that I was different, distinct, even distinguished. But I was on a dangerous road.
I had just selected the group of people I wanted to fit in with. From very early on I had learned that I did not fit in with peers my age, but very well with adults. When I was seven, we had joined a church that believed in sitting on pillows and sharing thoughts. I learned to control and manipulate, but also get respect and positive feedback by throwing sayings, bible verses, and even my personal thoughts into the discussion – short, sweet, sharp, to the point, open ended – most importantly: fitting the topic at hand. That was my world, and I craved for the laud and accolade.
Peers my age never understood nor were thrilled by what I said. They preferred to talk about other things – girls, soccer, how they hated school, you name it. So I turned away from them and tried to fit with the grown ups. My kind of rebellion, and as much as theirs it was a cry to belong.
My urge to both belong and rebel brought forth some rather strange behavior. I would one day wear fake leather pants and sit outside the school with my guitar, playing, well, middle of the road songs like “bridge over troubled water” with a fair voice, but troubled guitar skills. The other day I would dress up in a suit with tie. Playing the extremes poorly, I ended up neither hot nor cold. Even the thing I was best in – academia – I did enough to just get by.
What I wanted: be accepted by all people. Even though I had decided that peers were not worth it, I craved for their acceptance, as well as the one of adults such as our teachers.
Let me give you some cultural background. In our schools, students ganged up against teachers. Not what you think now – no violence. We just talked about them, putting them down, making fun of them. Understand my bafflement when I once in high school in the US told a fellow student that I did not like a certain teacher, and the next day the teacher talked to me about it. Those boundaries were not crossed at my high school.
Yet, in my attempt to belong to both groups, everybody in the student body suspected that I was the teachers water carrier. And teachers were repelled by my behavior when I tried so hard to fit in with the kids. I think, by now you get the drift.
And then, I became a Christian.
And everything changed to the good, no more problems. Since then I am burning hot for God, with no urge to belong and no fear of men.
If that were only true.
It is and was my greatest desire to be hot for the Lord. But how would I do that?
At first, I looked to my peer Christians and tried to imitate their behavior. I tried to fit in. This was very confusing, as there were so many different ways of doing things, sometimes just about opposite of each other. My solution: middle of the road.
I learned over time that this was terribly confusing and straining. And I felt that at times I acted to please the group I was with, but at others I rebelled. In a faint attempt to broaden somebody’s thinking I would throw in some controversial thoughts. Just as I had done at seven. But now, as an adult, that was not perceived as being cute, adorable, and wise beyond age. It was received as an affront. I challenged their ways. Who was I to do that?
So over time I learned to behave. Neither warm nor cold.
Please, understand me right. I wasn’t hot about things because they were the right thing to do or believe. Not only. I was hot, stubborn, firm about things to teach, to be accepted, to show off. But mostly, to test the relationships that started to slowly grow. Would they hold even if I would show my true character, be controversial, even somewhat hostile?
They did not. So I learned to behave as expected. Neither warm nor cold.
And – I have to admit – in some areas that held true for quite some time. Frankly, there might be areas it still does.
But in several sessions, God started to work with me and set me free.
There were several points that had to be dealt with:
- I am beautifully and wonderfully made. Not everything about me is perfect or in God’s plan, granted, but much of it is. He has uniquely crafted me, and it is my right and duty to be all he planned me to be. The best me I can be.
- I do not have to fit in with the expectations of other people – not even his people. I do not even have to please him. I have to grow into my identity in him, as his son and representative here on earth.
- He has given me everything I need. A secure environment, provision, equipment, rest, vision, calling, assignment, abilities, gracings, and people that complement me.
In order to come out of my need to fit in yet be different, I first negated my being different and thus became just like everybody – a bad interpretation of “a Jew for the Jews and a Greek for the Greek.” But then I learned how valuable it is to be different, to have distinct abilities, to think differently. Not for the sake of being different, but to complement others.
The key word in this is “others”. Christianity is about relationships. It is not necessarily about many relationships, but about the right ones.
I learned that I could be myself – the ever maturing self, growing into what God wants me to be, as a new creation – best in relationships. A deep personal relationship with God. In addition, having a few people around me that love me for who I am, who have both an assignment for our relationship due to divine appointment as well as the God kind of love that is unconditional, is the fertile ground and secure foundation for me to grow. For me to fulfill the unique, singular, inimitable, unrivaled, and one-of-a-kind calling that is on my life. Without regret or caution, because I know they will correct and hold back, encourage and admonition.
Or let’s say: it gives me permission to be steaming hot.
What about you? Do you have such an environment? If not: this is the time God’s spirit turns the hearts of the fathers to the sons and vice versa. Ask God for it.
So you can be steaming hot – for Christ.