Jesus Freak: Coined in the late 60s to refer to those involved in the Jesus Movement. Revived in the evangelical culture in the late 90s when a leading Christian rock band, DC Talk released their popular album “Jesus Freak.”
My high school reunion is coming up. Ten years. There is a room rented and website to buy tickets and a flurry of Facebook activity around it. The whole thing has me thinking a lot about the old days, about that big, brick building where I spent so much of my youth feeling alone and misunderstood.
Here is what I remember most about those days: the overwhelming sense I got from the evangelical youth culture that we were at war. Don’t let your guard down – people will hate you for what you believe.
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak, DC Talk sang at sold out concerts across the country. There is no denying the Truth.
We were singing along at the top of our lungs, convinced by the surge of voices that to be a Christian is to be despised. You turn your cheek to the insults you will definitely receive. You pray for those who will inevitably treat you with cruelty.
Here is what happens when you approach the world from this standpoint: you become hard as steel, cold as metal. You understand somewhere in your deepest heart that to enter into the culture is to be rejected, and so you never try.
You stand instead at the sidelines in a t-shirt bearing a Jesus fish logo. You hand out a lot of fliers for the school Bible study. You feel the weight of the Good News, but you understand that the world is unwilling to listen, so you shout louder.
Your classmates walk by you not hating you, but not really liking you either. You are a nonentity, a disembodied voice. You are cold as metal, barring yourself from the world.
I know that none of us made it out of high school without a few regrets. Mine is this: I was so afraid. I memorized only the verses that told me that to be a follower of Christ was to become Different. I read in those words: unlikeable, unwanted, uncool.
But here is Jesus. There is something about him. He is magnetic. He speaks, and people sit on a hill all day long to hear. He moves, and they are drawn to where he is. They are straining through the crowd to touch his robes. Eating meals with him, drinking wine. Sitting side-by-side at the well, amazed.
To be sure there were those that didn’t understand him. Those that detested him. But as far as I can tell, it was largely the religious elite who found him the most threatening. Who wanted him gone.
The reunion will come and go. It will be anticlimactic, nostalgic, strange. There will be a lot of drinking, a lot of assessing each other across the room. Lots of talk about work and family.
I am not going so much for this. I am going so I can do what I wish I’d done all those years ago: love them.
I want a do-over. I want a chance to be brave. I want to sit down next to someone I was afraid to talk to back then, and I’d like to listen. I want to show up not as a self-declared Jesus Freak, but just as myself. A woman. A person. Someone who has struggled and laughed and dreamed. One who has encountered Jesus and been changed.
I’d like to extend a warm hand. I’d like to say hello.