Today marks the end of the 36th day I have been out of the comfort of the US of A. I was going to say the 36th day that I have been in Barcelona, but I’ve actually been in Sitges, Valencia, Erfoud, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Peñíscola, Meknes, Fez, and Badalona, so saying that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.
All of these places were different *cue the African camels,* but there was one constant: the staring. Not on my part, though some of these places were stunningly beautiful and I could have stared. No, the staring was directed at me. I’m not particularly attention-grabbing. I’m average height, medium build, and, you can’t tell because my protective layer of potato chips and ice cream, but I’m stronger than you think. All of this is wrapped up in modest, but cute, clothing. I’m comfortable with who I am, and I’m also perfectly aware that it’s not exactly a stare-winning list. However, I am confident, I walk tall, and—most notably—I am fair-skinned and blonde.
Here, I am different. I am distinct.
I was not prepared for this much attention, I’m not going to lie. It’s not just men, either, though they are more brazen about it. It’s everyone. They stare when I wash my hands. I catch their gazes through the reflections of the metro windows, as I cross streets by cafés, as I chow down in the school cafeteria, or pass the police precinct. Everyone recognizes my otherness and, for some unknown reason, feels compelled to analyze it. Because it’s obvious that I don’t belong.
And I love that.
In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul writes, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
Cool, Kay, random Bible quote. It’s not. Read it again. We are sealed. We are different.
You’ve seen a western movie, right? You’ve driven by a farm? I’m sure at one point in your life you’ve seen an animal that has been branded or tagged. It’s necessary in order for that animal to be identified. The brand, the symbol obviously marked and recognizable, tells the world, no matter where that animal goes, “Look, this is where I am from. Look, this is who I belong to.”
It’s not a hidden symbol that the animal has to tell someone in order for it to be known. It’s obvious. The whole world can see it if they look.
That’s us, as believers. We are sealed, we are identified as being God’s by the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. The world should recognize that something is different. Metaphorically, they should stare.
I’ve been asked where I’m from several times. Because of my accent when I speak Spanish (a weird American+French combo), the people’s first guess is almost never the United States. At a café I frequent, they still call me “The German.” The point is, people recognize that I don’t belong here and they want to know why I am here, how I am here, and where I come from.
In Spain I am different because of how I look, but in the world, we are all called to be distinct. Blending in was never meant for us. Fading into the crowd is not our destiny. Don’t you realize? We are children of the High King. Our calling is so much greater than fitting in and making people like us. People should notice that we are different.
How amazing would it be if we really were a city on a hill? If our difference was as obvious as my hair is in Catalonia? Sometimes I wonder if we should be. What if, while walking down the street, people looked up and watched us go by. What if God’s presence was so alight in our lives that they couldn’t help but watch? That they had no idea why they were even watching? That they needed whatever it was that they recognized in us?
After the first couple of weeks here, I was annoyed with all the staring, but now I see it as an opportunity. I don’t blend in. I don’t want to. So I’ll let them stare. Maybe they’ll look past my blonde hair and see my brand, too. And when they do, I’ll tell them about it. After all, I have plenty of Jesus to share.
So do you.
Don’t be so afraid of standing out that you keep your light from spreading. Be bold. Be brazen. Walk tall.
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