I'm not normal
Hello! My name is Josh Skidmore
Hello! My name is Josh Skidmore, and I am not normal. I am not normal because I am a disciple of the least normal man in human history, Jesus Christ.
It's really easy to say, but to actually live in a way that is different to everyone around us is flipping hard when it comes to it, especially in a secondary school environment, where being normal is the golden rule. Having fairly recently emerged from that world, let me offer you a few thoughts from my experience of trying to follow Jesus at school.
I think I found 3 main stages of how people perceive you as a Christian.
anything to do with Jesus was seen as something from childhood.
Stage 1: The Oh-you're-still-into-all-that-stuff Stage.
This stage seemed to happen in year 7 and 8. I went to a school which was linked to a Church in town, which certainly did not mean most people were Christians, but it did mean that most people had been to Sunday school at some stage. This meant that anything to do with Jesus was seen as something from childhood. Noah's Ark was just another story, on the same sort of level as Thomas the Tank Engine. 'You still read the Bible and go to Church? Isn't it time you grew out of that?'
That sort of attitude stung, because I was eager to seem mature and grown up, but as soon as the word 'Jesus' passed my lips, there were patronising looks, and someone saying, 'Aw bless!' Following Jesus was for kids. But trust me, it's not, and this stage is the chance to show with your life and your proper commitment to Jesus that it is a serious business
Stage 2: The Cool-or-Christian Stage
weird thing called puberty
This one was year 9, 10 and 11 for me, and I personally found this the hardest of the 3. People are starting to grow up much more quickly as that weird thing called puberty sends everyone bonkers. Sometimes at this point, the goalposts of friendship move- it used to be OK to enjoy running round and kicking a ball together, but now I have to be willing to come to some of those really dodgy sounding parties with you, and experiment with alcohol, the opposite sex, and whatever else. I don't mean at this point to tell you how you ought to deal with situations like that, I'm sure someone will write a blog on it sooner or later, but for now I shall just assume that, as Christians, we approach them slightly differently to normal people.
some friends wanted less to do with me
For friendships, that meant that some friends wanted less to do with me than they had in the past. It's not that you can't be cool as a Christian, but at this age, it becomes tricky! So friendships strain with non-Christians, and sometimes break down. The good side of things was that people were at an age when they wanted to work out what they believed about the world, so conversations about Jesus were there to be had whenever I plucked up the courage, and people started taking Jesus a bit more seriously. This was a time, then, of great challenge, as following Jesus became an increasingly weird and testing thing to do, but of massive opportunity, as evangelism became an every day thing, if I let it.
Stage 3: The Resident-religious-person Stage
Sixth form. You either love it or you hate it. I loved it, for a variety of reasons, not least that I was doing 3 subjects I really loved, but also because people were used to me being a Christian and used to what that meant for how I behaved. I was comfortable- people accepted me and left me to my own weird Christian devices. The last dregs of sneering and teasing for my faith had more or less gone.
This felt wonderful, but looking back, I think it made me lazy. People knew I followed this Jesus guy; they knew they could come to me to talk about God stuff if they fancied- I didn't really need to make the effort like I used to. Sometimes that worked, but it was wrong- Jesus and Paul certainly never waited for others to make the first move, and neither should we.
people assumed they understood me because they knew about my faith.
The other thing was that people assumed they understood me because they knew about my faith. I found this really frustrating at the time, but it was my own fault for characterising myself as 'the Christian guy.' I became comfortable and complacent in labelling myself as Christian, without worrying too much about my own personal devotion to Jesus. Being publicly on fire for Jesus meant I could easily mask being privately stagnant.
Again, big challenges, but massive gospel opportunities.
That's the whistle-stop tour through my teenage years of faith at school. It looks like a lot of challenges and difficulties, and I guess it was, but God is faithful. I hope you learn a bit from my mistakes and experiences, but above all, know that God is always, always good.
"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!"- Lamentations 3:22-23