I’m just going to come right out and say it—I don’t care for football. I’m really not interested in who played this weekend or what the outcome of the games were. Perhaps it’s because in four years of high school, our team won one game. I attended two different colleges and one grad school—none of which had a football team. Maybe I’m turned off by all the hitting. What can I say? I’m just not a sports fan. I’m married to the ultimate sports fan, so I’ve really tried, but to no avail.
While I’m on a confessional roll, I’ll let you know that I really don’t like popcorn all that much. It’s too salty, and it gets stuck in my teeth. The texture is weird. And you know that big box store headquartered in Northwest Arkansas? I don’t shop there. Ever. It gives me a headache. When I’m really, really stressed, nothing is more soothing to me than the voice of Ira Glass saying, “Welcome to This American Life.”
We all have habits or preferences or compulsions that make us a bit odd. We all have a freak flag, but most of us don’t let it fly. We keep those parts of us that make us different hidden as best we can. But they are bound to come out at some point, especially if we share our lives with others. And if we share our lives with others, their freak flags are bound to start waving as well.
We all need a community of people who love us for who we are, not who they want us to be. And, in turn, we have to extend the same kind of love to others. I believe Jesus had something to say about that. If we take the approach of Seinfeld’s title character and count out anyone whose quirks don’t line up with our own, we not only will end up lonely, we’ll be pretty unhealthy as well.
In his book, Everybody’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg recalls the Almeda County Study. The study followed 7,000 people over the course of nine years. Researchers discovered that isolated people were three times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections. They even found that those with bad health habits (obesity, smoking, alcohol use), but strong social ties lived longer than people with great habits who were isolated. As Ortberg puts it, “It’s better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone.”
So find a community where you can let your freak flag fly. When you are honest about who you are, you are much more able to give others permission to do the same. And when we know each other’s quirks and flaws and love each other anyway, then we create that really special thing called community. That thing that God dwells in and calls us to. That thing that church is when it’s at it’s best. It’s not always easy, but when we make the effort to live in community as our authentic selves with all the other freaks, we are happier and healthier for having done so.