On finding acceptance in an old hometown

Hometowns. They can bring such feelings of security. Safety. The feeling of being at home. But there’s a flip side. Those hometowns often become the place we never feel at home. Not accepted. Only remembered for all the mistakes you made. A person you likely are not anymore

Jesus was no stranger to being rejected by His own hometown.

He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He stole the show, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further. Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching. Mark 6:1-6 MSG

This passage was one we discussed in our Sunday services. I pastor a small congregation of Liberian refugees. Their hometown is nothing like mine. Our experiences vastly different. They left their hometown and fleed from an entire continent to a foreign land. I never left mine.

Regardless of the differences, our hometowns have certain opinions and expectations of us. Because of who we were, and because of who we are now.

The same was true for Jesus. He went back to Nazareth, his hometown. He spent time teaching about His Father, the path to righteousness, and what did his peers do? Remembered his prior occupation. Took note of his family history. Who he had been, not who he was. Who he had become.

This kind of stuff is the way of life when you consider small towns. If Jesus, the Son of God was no stranger, certainly we are not either. It’s honestly pervasive throughout our human, earthly experience.

We gossip. We talk about people we don’t even know based on something someone said about a person they “used” to know. Or were hurt by. We take that as the gospel and run with it, and we fail to look beyond.

We only see what man sees.

A “new” person, as one who has “become” someone else. Left our past mistakes behind, we are only remembered for our old life by those who knew us. Know our family. Our past. We are still reduced to our past mistakes. Things we did then that we no longer do. Those who knew us then, only remember our family legacy. We can’t seem to rise up and be accepted in our born place, because so many are holding on to a person we have given to Christ. A person transformed.

A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family. Mark 6:4, NLT

Sometimes we can’t transform and flourish in our own hometowns.

Ever heard the phrase “the proof is in the pudding?” What this means, is that the proof of its true value. Its true effectiveness. Its true success. Its power is in “eating.” In tasting what was produced. Food aside, and inserting people-its in actually interacting. Knowing, and being around these people. Tasting that the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit is good. It’s not based on what you hear. What someone else’s opinion is, because not everyone will like pudding. And some will only choose to remember when it wasn’t so sweet.

Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Luke 7:35,MSG

You. You decide for yourself. Do those you knew then, but have chosen a different path now, do their actions reflect truth? Do they do what they say they will do? Do they keep promises? Are they known by their fruit…the ones God produces-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

Are you still holding on to a person who has been transformed and no longer lives that way? Are you still holding onto bitterness and anger from some family history that has nothing to do with the person in front of you?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV

That person has been made new, too. They just happen to live in a hometown that remembers their past. Hasn’t seen their transformation.

Next time someone comes at you with a smear campaign. Examine the pudding. Taste it for yourself. If it’s good, ignore that voice that keeps telling you otherwise, and simply believe in what you know and what you see.

And if the pudding is as bad as you were told. If patterns have evolved, never changed, still exist; and well the fruit that is still produced is a bit spoiled…then you can listen to that person who hasn’t let go. However, you don’t need to hold onto the hurt. Pray. Pray God changes the pattern. Pray God starts producing a different “pudding.”

Examine the pudding. Choose your own path to determining if the fruit is good. And don’t let those wrongs jade your opinion of a person changed by God.

Don’t allow a prophet, a new creation to be rejected in his own hometown.

Out of the Valley of Fear

The Lord is my light and my salvation-so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? Psalm 27:1

Fear. It is the one word I said I was going to overcome this year. That one word I chose to ditch at the beginning of 2014. That one word I just can’t get over. That one word that keeps me from living the life God has planned for me. My purpose. My assignment.

Fear and courage. Two completely separate armies, and in between the two lies one deep valley. And, if I am going to get to the promised land. Live out the life God has planned for me. My purpose. My assignment. Well, then I have to be willing to get out of the valley. The Valley of Rejection. The Valley of Enough. The Valley of Failure. The Valley of the Unknown.

But, fear is the army I can’t seem to leave, simply because I am scared of most EVERYTHING. I have mentioned the typical fears like snakes, sharks, roller coasters, and spiders. Most of those I am happy to admit. I am not so happy to admit that the brave face I put on to hide my fears, really isn’t hiding a fear of sea and land monsters, but rather all those other monsters that have me reenlisting in the Army of Fear.

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Psalm 27:10

I’m terrified of people. I don’t have a social phobia or anything, rather, I am terrified of being rejected by people. Which means I am terrified of their feelings. Hurting them if I speak up. Hurting mine in the process. Afraid of what will happen when the words do come, and even afraid when they don’t. Terrified I will say the wrong thing. Write something too convicting. Speak the truth a little too harshly. Embarrass my teen. Expose myself too soon. And then watch people walk away. Bruised. Hurt. Confused. Ashamed.

I’m afraid of the “enoughs.” The good enoughs. The smart enoughs. The pretty enoughs. The fast enough. The enough of a mother, wife, friend. The Christian enough. The strong enough. And, even when God tells me otherwise-that I AM good enough, I still have this paralyzing fear that somehow, someday, and someone will find out that I just don’t measure up to be “enough.”

Failure? Oh yes, I frequent the Valley of Failure. It is this place in the valley where I beat myself up every time I get less than a perfect score on a test or paper. The valley I stay in when I pull an all-nighter because I can’t stand the thought of failing to turn something in on time. It is also the fear of failure that keeps me from facing my Goliath’s like David faced down his. That keeps me from taking risks. Taking chances. Making mistakes. Making a change. Because, what if I fail? Miserably? What if I have to admit, “Man, I really messed that one up?”

And, oh…the “what-ifs!” The fears of all of those unknowns. Those dark places in the valley that we just can’t see.

“God has a stunning vision for your life, but if He showed it to you all at once, it would be too much to handle. In His grace He gives small glimpses at a time, and His unimaginable vision for your life can only unfold as you have the courage, like David, to move into the unknown.” -Derwin L. Gray, Limitless Life

Small glimpses at a time. Glimpses I can’t see in the Valley of the Unknown. The Valley of What-If. The Valley of the Why. The Valley of the When, Where, and How.

Small glimpses of the army on the other side. The one I can only see if I get out of the Valley of the Sheep named Rejection, Good Enough, Failure, and Unknown.

A glimpse of my purpose. My assignment. What I was born to do. To be fearless. To step out of my comfort zone. Speak up. To have faith even if I cannot see the result.

To move from the Army of Fear to the Army of Courage.