The only true currency in this bankrupt world… is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool. (Almost Famous)
High school was a confusing time for me. One of the most interesting anomalies which marked the transition from Junior High to Senior High was “the nod”. Prior to ninth grade, the act of passing a friend or acquaintance in the hallway meant a smile, high five, brief vocal acknowledgment, or (when time permitted) an actual conversation.
In high school, the parallel rise of male testosterone and insecurity gave rise to the nod. No hand-slapping, cute smiles or unnecessary exchange of pleasantries were allowed. When dudes locked eyes across thinly carpeted hallways carrying a sea of people between purple lockers (yes, our school had purple lockers), the only acceptable response was a quick lift of the chin, a non-verbal assertion,
“Dude, I’m cool. Are you cool? Of course you’re cool, ’cause I’m nodding at you. Either that or I’m nodding simply to indicate that I’m willing to acknowledge your presence, but unwilling to stoop so low as to engage in any sort of verbal exchange. Thus, the nod.”
I realize I’m over-analyzing the intricacies of teenage communicative patterns, but I believe the spirit of the nod points to something that transcends those nebulous teenage years.
Let’s face it, we’re all uncool. Some of us have yet to come to grips with this earth-shattering reality, we’ve yet to shun the nod and grieve the loss of our illusions.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-24).
Translation: You (and I) are extraordinarily and eternally uncool.
The question is not whether we’re cool, but rather, what we do with this revelation of our equally vanilla identities.
Some choose to build a fortress and persist in their embrace of the nod.
Following Jacob’s deceptive manuever in “obtaining” his brother Esau’s birthright, the young man is warned by his mother to leave the family home in Beersheba amidst Esau’s expressed intentions to seek revenge. Jacob heads north to Haran, while Esau, wounded and with no inheritance marries an Ishmalite and eventually travels along the international highway which stretches from Beersheba to the sharp rise of sandstone on the opposite side of the Jordan River,
So Esau settled in the gill country of Seir. (Esau is Edom) (Genesis 36:8).
Long before Moses led the Israelites across the Jordan River, Esau established a Kingdom in a faraway land called Edom.
We visited Bozrah (Edom’s capital city), a breathtaking fortress city which jettisons out into the Rift Valley, silently looming over would-be invaders. Edom’s geography necessitates that inhabitants excel in shepherding (there isn’t enough rain to sustain much agriculture). This reality coupled with harsh elements (sandstorms in the summer and whipping winter winds and snow in the winter) gave the Edomites a reputation of being rugged, stone-faced people.
We don’t know much about Edom. Did they ever bleed? Was the awesome fortress ledge of Bozrah ever overtaken by ambitious Arabs from the east or neighboring Moabites from the north? We have no idea. Their story in only partially told by surrounding nations.
Wandering past the poverty-stricken modern Jordanian village while kicking 3,000 year old pottery shards (which outnumber the rocks atop the soil in Bozrah), it was clear that at some point, Bozrah fell. The fortress crumbled. And while we have no idea how it happened, Obadiah predicted that it would,
Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the LORD (Obadiah v. 2-4).
I had a tough time letting go of the nod. When I was a junior in college I chose to live with a guy named Nate. Nate was honest. He had a spine and from what I could tell had relinquished any hopes of being cool long before me. We argued a lot. Nate was Catholic. When we played video games, my team would always represent Protestants and his would fly the Vatican flag. Reformation matches. Throw downs for control of Christendom.
One day I turned to Nate and asked (probably following a nod in his direction), “Dude, why can’t we just be friends?” He was quick to respond,”Because you don’t want to be friends with me.” I was appalled. Nate continued, “You never risk anything with me, share anything vulnerable. If you really wanted to be my friend, you’d tell me why I sometimes walk into the room and you’re crying.”
He was right. I had built Bozrah in my heart; hiding behind a superficial nod and locking myself in a tower surrounded by an arid wasteland.
I was unwilling to admit, definitively, that I was uncool. Little did I know, the LORD was about to lay waste to my heart, kill my pride, and send me tumbling down the precipice of my fortress home.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known (Luke 12:2).
Being authentic people is risky because the prospects of being real play on all our fears of being rejected. However…when we forsake the nod and turn our eyes away from the lying mirror we’ll find our un-coolness embraced without reservation by the One who sees through our facades, reflecting back who we really are: His portion and prized possession. In turn, we’ll more confidently turn toward one another, trusting that the arms that hold our frail hearts have been fashioned to the torsos of those who sit across our dinner tables, pews and offices.
It is only amid a definitive renouncing of the nod and desperate clinging to the cross that we can come to be known as truly His, and truly a gift to one another.
The cross is God’s truth about us, and therefore it is the only power which can make us truthful. When we know the cross we are no longer afraid of the truth. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)