Black Friday is a day when we cheapen and devalue things. And it’s part of a season where many people do the same thing to those they are closest to.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are times of celebration, times of being around family. But that kind of proximity can feel claustrophobic at times. We can feel trapped by how our family sees us.
They have watched us grow up. They have seen us at our worst and may limit us with their expectations.
Do you at times feel disrespected by those who know you? Do family and friends tend to see you through the lens of past failure? If so, you’re in good company. Jesus experienced it and pointed it out to those disrespecting him.
Jesus was 30, had been baptized, tangled with the devil in the desert and was ready to begin his public ministry. As Luke reports, Jesus first showed up at his home church.
He read Scripture there and people loved it. But what he did next set their teeth on edge and made them want to kill him.
Jesus said a provocative thing – “You will ask me to do here in my hometown what I did elsewhere. Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown.” And then he cited the example of Elijah.
It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The crowd was furious and “drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.”
Jesus escaped, passing through the crowd. And that leaves us with two unanswered questions: How did he escape? And, what was it about his response that made them so mad?
Jesus made lots of people mad, but these were the people who had watched him grow up. They had passed by the carpenter shop in which he apprenticed with his father. They had seen him carrying wood around and delivering furniture. They’d seen him on the streets and in the marketplace.
Over the years, their expectations had been set. Jesus had become familiar. He’d become ordinary. His greatness had been hidden. Those who knew him thought, “How is it that this young woodworker says he can do miracles? He says we don’t recognize God’s messengers. How dare he talk down to us!”
We disrespect with low expectations
And so it is with any of us. We become familiar with one another and we begin to predict behavior based on past actions. We look at a data set and we extrapolate the average. Families are the worst. We disrespect one another with our low expectations.
Greatness implies a deviation from the norm. Greatness lies on the outskirts of the bell curve. Yes, if we are living a Groundhog Day life, those who have seen us are going to expect us to keep living it.
But realistically, we have to be able to live this way or we would forever be making decisions as though we had no criteria. We’d be hopelessly naive and find ourselves in dangerous places without discernment.
Status quo and sneers
The problem comes with the contempt that familiarity breeds. We grow up like Jesus did and people think, “Because you’ve never stirred the pot, you’re not going to. You’re not going to threaten things that are important to me. You are going to leave the status quo be.”
And those words of theirs lock us into place. They freeze us in time. We will always do what we’ve always done as long as our elders keep patting us on the head as though we were still 14 years old.
No upper lips may be turned upward in a sneer, but it’s still contempt – a diminishment of who we are as an individual. It’s a way of exercising power – keeping things as they were.
But God delights in upsetting apple carts. His son certainly did. Right out of the gate, he called a spade a spade. And his neighbors wanted to kill him for it.
Better to leave and live free
It’s because of this dynamic that societies the world over have put rites of initiation and gap year experiences in place. Not only did the young boys and girls going through the initiation need a line to step across, so did the adults who had become accustomed to viewing them as children.
We all need help with change. God continually was asking his people to move out of their hometowns. Yes, he wanted them to move physically. But he knows that we are creatures of habit. And to change us, he often has to change our environment.
We live in a world where change is a constant. And we may want to cope by hunkering down. But God doesn’t want us to live in a place of contempt.
Some say that leaving home implies a failure to commit, but how do you know what is worth committing to unless you’ve looked at life outside your neighborhood?
Leaving home or leaving a job that is comfortable but wrong is a righteous step out of the safety of a nest. We discover our greatness as we encounter the needs of a hungry world and different ways of doing things.
If you feel diminished by those who have watched you grow into your own skin, God wants to set you free. He put a restlessness deep inside you that whispers to you of a better world and a better you in it. God’s whispers are righteous prods to helping you move from your ruts and into your greatness.