It is almost as if it is a right of passage for each generation, the desire to be different… the call to stand out from the crowd… the manifesto to be uniquely you.
To be sure, it makes perfect sense to me that this would be the case time and again. It is completely understandable that, in the teenage years, as each individual is developing and coming to own their identity, that in that critical time the mantra would rise: be who you were meant to be! Psychology has studied what parents have known for eons: the teenage years are marked with an emerging sense of self, the struggle to know themselves, who they are and what they are meant to do in life.
In Proverbs 22, the Bible recognizes this reality and encourages parents, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
And it was from a teen that the following wisdom came. [Let me tell you, there are few things more humbling and edifying than to be taught by those we teach.]
“You have to go against the grain to obtain the grain.”
Amen sister, amen.
Avonlea shared these words as a call to be different and a call to live the life God wants you to live. The against the grain of which she was speaking was the call to be different, the call to heed the word when Romans 12 instructs us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
To go against the grain is to hear the truth of Jesus call in Luke 9, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
The call to be different is a call we must all hear and heed. The call of the life giving truth of the gospel. The bad news (worse than we thought) needs to be heard so we can receive the good news (better than we ever imagined). And in this moment we (again) pray, “Lord, help me to want what you want for me.”
…because here, when we go against the grain, we obtain the grain: the life God wants for us to live.
Avonlea challenged us with Paul’s words, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” We are challenged with the foundations we’ve built, the alternative real-estate we’ve considered, the places we’ve vacationed and we see that Christ’s call in Luke 9 is rough, it is difficult but it is life giving. And here, in this moment where will and truth collide, we make the choice to go against the grain so we can be transformed.
The book of Luke quotes these words from Isaiah,
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'”
This advent season, as we prepare our homes, churches and hearts for the coming of Christ, how is God speaking to you to go “against the grain to obtain the grain?” What rough ways in your heart is God working to make smooth?