A letter to my daughter
Being a Christian means something more than just a label.by Jenn Esbenshade
I took you to the petting zoo today. Like usual, you dressed yourself in your mismatched clothes. You put your elastic headband around the top of your head, making you look more like a hippie child than the princess with a crown you think you are making. You were set to go out.
Myla, the author’s daughter, with her toy mower. Photo provided.
I have become so accustomed to your uniqueness that I barely even notice. But today was different. As we looked at the animals, I noticed the other little girls there. They had nicely matched clothes, neatly pressed and fitting. Their hair was combed into smooth ponytails or pretty braids. And then there stood you. I saw people look. I waited for the comments. So often I hear things like, “You are so brave to let her go out like that” or, “What a free spirit!”
But today, no comments came. You were so enthralled in the animals and so caught up in life that you wouldn’t have known anyway. You were oblivious to it all.
My hope and prayer is that you stay that way. The world will try to change you. The world will tell you you have to dress a certain way. It will tell you you have to act a certain way and tell you what it means to be a young woman in this society. It will try to impose itself on you and change you into an image of those around you.
The apostle Paul knew of this. He knew of the seduction of the world and its insidious desire for conformity. He wrote in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer 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.”
So, my dear daughter, don’t conform. Don’t be tempted to try to fit in. Jesus certainly didn’t. He was publicly admonished and chastised by religious leaders. The people of his hometown thought he was crazy and tried to throw him off a cliff. He was scorned and rejected. Yet there was something that drew people to him. Crowds gathered to hear him, and hurting people desired nothing more than just to touch him. It wasn’t because Jesus was just like the others around him; it was because he was so different.
Today it is the clothes that make you stand out, but someday I hope it will be more. I hope that as you grow, there will be something different about you. I pray you will be challenged by the example set before you by Jesus and Paul and by your family, friends and church, that being a Christian means something more than just a label. I pray you will adopt a lifestyle of radical unconformity that stretches you to become the hands and feet of Christ in a world that needs more servants and less being served.
I know this is a lot for your 3-year-old self, but in the blink of an eye you will be grown. Please know that I and many others will be upholding you in prayer for this very thing—that you will know God’s good, pleasing and perfect will in your life and that it causes you to blossom into a new creation in Christ.
In the meantime, your stripes and your flowers together are just fine by me.
Jenn Esbenshade is a member of New Holland (Pa.) Mennonite Church.
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