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Spotting a Fellow Stranger

By Jenefer Igarashi

If you’re feeling awkward at trendy parties, that may be a good sign.

I’m a walking social disaster. At those “important sorts” of parties, I’m generally the one who looks like I am from out of town and tagging along with an unlucky cousin whose mother forced them to bring me. I end up grazing in a corner at the buffet, usually with the rest of the nerdy-looking herd. Despite how pathetic it may look, I would count it an honor to be lumped in with the “feeble” crowd. If I’m lucky, I’m in the group that’s fodder for the “important” attendees. We can give them a good laugh as they plan to cow-tip some of us when we fall asleep standing up.

It’s those parties, or conventions, or even worse, some types of Christian conventions, meetings, or functions, that cause me to squirm (homeschool conventions seem to be the exception, fortunately). But get me out. And, unavoidably, there is always a Christian powerhouse-type in a snappy, trendy outfit who zeros in on me and strides over to make conversation. It would take less time if she would simply announce herself by proclaiming, “Hello—yes, you with the witless expression—I’m going to dominate you.” She usually goes on to show me that she is wittier and prettier, makes more money, is more important, has a better car and a nicer hat, knows more important people, and has loftier goals, and that I’m quite privileged to be in her presence. And then, happy as I was in my little nerdy (albeit mellow and nice) group, I end up feeling compelled to somehow put her in her place by letting her know that “be that as it may, I’m certainly more spiritual.” Sweet, isn’t it? It’s because of this that I hate going out in public. Not just in public, but in the “Christian” public. I’m decidedly less “Christian” when I’m in such a crowd.

Recently, I had to suffer a Christian women’s convention where I was repeatedly reminded about how socially awkward I am. These were Christian dynamos with purpose-driven lives. The powerful and popular. A running theme was to Celebrate Being a Woman. I was so out of the loop. Celebrate being a woman? Are we not called instead to humility? To serve our husbands, serve our families, serve our church, serve our community, and treat others as if they were more important than ourselves (Philippians 2)? I can’t remember a biblical call to “celebrate” womanhood. I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to do that. Throw a party? Wear a funny hat with tassels? Blow up balloons? Treat myself to a pedicure? Actually, I do enjoy a nice pedicure—yet I digress. At any rate, I never found out how to celebrate my womanhood because I pretty much checked out of the whole Christian conference the day after my arrival. This was not my crowd. I told my sister in utter frustration, “I can deal with the world, but I just cannot handle dealing with Christian women! They are the very worst!”

She corrected me by saying, “No, if we were truly hearing a Christian message, it would have been an encouraging respite. The modern ‘Christian culture’ is not, at all, the same thing as ‘Christian.’”

If we look, sound, dress, talk, and operate as the world …, then something has gone terribly wrong.

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And she’s completely right. We are told that there will be tares among us, wolves among us, deceivers and divisive ones among us. No, having a Christian label slapped on something means nothing. We are to be strangers here. 1 Peter 2:11. We are simply passing through. If we look, sound, dress, talk, and operate as the world and if we are indiscernible from the world, then something has gone terribly wrong.

A pastor’s daughter told my oldest daughter that it was important to look cool and act trendy because that way “teens could relate.” She said that if other teens thought that she and her youth group were losers then they could not effectively witness to them. That’s not only idiotic, it’s scary and downright unbiblical.

I cannot find any biblical examples of Jesus (or any of His followers) strategically sporting the latest nifty threads or being hailed as a dynamic comedian or being able to draw large crowds by putting on killer rock concerts (John on bass, Andrew on lead guitar, Peter on drums …). Honestly, can you imagine? Christ had a clear and simple message. He did not pander to the rich or to the “in-crowd.” He was found eating, living, and spending His short time with the sinners, the losers, the sick, the deformed, the unwanted, and the lowly. Jesus was meek, He was humble, He was kind; and even though He was God, He took on the very nature of a servant and humbled Himself—even handed Himself over to be mocked, ridiculed, falsely accused, beaten, and finally murdered by the “in-crowd.” Polls or popular opinion meant nothing. He came here to serve. How I wish that described my life. Do I want to serve? I wish that I served more, and I wish that I could control my temper and pride. I certainly do not want to serve Christian people who think they are owed it. Those types I’d just as soon avoid altogether. And God uses even that to convict me.

Lately, for some reason, I have had more run-ins than ever with powerful, self-assured, abrupt, rude, forceful, abrasive, catty, back-biting, condescending, demanding Christian women. And God help me, I don’t want to desire their fall, or see them put in their place. Perhaps God simply wants me to notice a contrast (or lack of contrast) and to make sure that I’m in the right group with my “fellow strangers,” with the meek, the ready to serve, with the timid, humble, and lowly. And He is very gracious; I am privileged to have godly friends who are tremendous examples of that.

One of my best friends, Jennifer Pepito, came over a while back. She has a lovely home in the country; however, her family has packed up and moved to Mexico in order to serve as missionaries. When she stopped by before they left, she let me know they had found a home to rent, and she showed some pictures. It was a very, very, and I mean very tiny place. TINY! She was to live there with her husband and five children. I mean, we’re talking TINY! She looked at me, and with complete sincerity said, “I’m sort of embarrassed to show people these pictures.”

I was about to chime in and say that I was sorry it was such a downsizing, but before I could, she finished her sentence with, “I feel like we should be willing to give up comforts while we serve as missionaries—I should be living in a little mud shack. But God has blessed us with such a lovely place.” I almost started bawling like a big fat crybaby as she pointed out all of its charm and practicality. What I viewed as totally unacceptable, she viewed as more than she needed.

I have another friend from church, a little older than I am, and she and her husband recently sold their beautiful (huge) home, got rid of their incredibly lovely furniture, knickknacks, extra sewing machines, and clothes (actually, she blessed me with a lot of it) in order to move into a house less than half the size of the one they sold. They have the money to live in luxury, but when I questioned her about it, she said that they wanted to get rid of any hindrances and simply serve the Lord. Who does that? I don’t.

Another incredible friend is Patti Gillespie. I have never heard that woman, ever, say a derogatory thing about anyone. She has only uplifting and edifying reports to make about people we know in common. She has proven herself a friend to be trusted. Embarrassing as it is to admit, once when I started “talking down” a mutual acquaintance, she gently turned the conversation. The other person about whom I was venting was not there, and since no arrangements had been made to mediate such a discussion, Patti wouldn’t hear any of it. I don’t want to be a gossip, nor do I want to be gossiped about. Despite being (rightfully) shamed, I was heartened to find a friend who will not only refuse to (privately or publicly) tear me down, but one who is also willing to shut down anyone who may have designs to do so about me when I am not present. This is biblical, and this is the crowd that I want to be a part of! Strangers in this land … simply passing through.

Material possessions should mean nothing.

Material possessions should mean nothing. Titles of grandeur, popularity, being looked up to, being fawned over by the in crowd is nothing more than deadly quicksand. As Christians, we should not covet the praise or adulation of man. If you’re feeling awkward at trendy parties, that may be a good sign. We should look different from the world. We are not meant to get cozy and fit in. We are here to minister to the dying. We are not here to “impress” the dying.

The thing that gets confusing, though, is when we feel so out of sync with the mainstream church. However, I’ll say it again: having a Christian label means very little nowadays. We should not strive to “look like a Christian”; rather we should determine to know Christ and model our words and deeds after Him alone. Our children are learning these things from us. Will they hear us gossiping about others? Mine have. God forgive me. Sometimes I’m tempted to staple my tongue to the table. Will they see us pursuing worldly goals and materialistic pleasures? Or will they see us acting in kindness, serving with a cheerful attitude, and willing to let go of our perceived rights or position and follow the King at all costs? God help us to not only be able to spot other strangers, but to be spotted and marked as strangers ourselves.

Matthew 5:1-16

© Jenefer Igarashi
Jenefer Igarashi, TOS's Senior Editor, lives in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with her husband, Geoff, and their six children, ages 16 years to 1 year. Jen enjoys writing fiction and has won two awards from Writer's Digest. The whole family enjoys construction projects, good books, and jumping on their trampoline. Come say "hi" to Jen on her blog at
Copyright 2006. Used with permission. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Right now, 19 free gifts when you subscribe.


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