Recently, I had the opportunity to observe the habits of indigenous Californians in their natural habitat. 🙂 Let me tell you, it made for some interesting discoveries…
For instance, I learned that the majority of them are extremely pushy drivers. Not aggressive, necessarily, but they don’t wait for you to get out of the way before they start moving, nor let you have the right of way, even when it’s yours. [My thought here is that they feel the need to take full advantage of the rare times when they’re not sitting at a full stop on the 5 or the 405.] And that’s another thing: Californians have a strange predilection for referring to their freeways as “The” whatever. Not “Interstate” or “Highway” or even “I-so and so.” THE 405. THE 5. THE 8, like these are the end-all, be-all, creme-de-la-creme of roads. It’s easy to tell the tourists from the natives – just ask which roads they take to get somewhere.
A very strange custom, to my Texas way of thinking, is their utter disinclination to purchase and/or use air conditioning. Now, granted, they don’t really NEED it most days, but that’s beside the point. (Or maybe it’s the part I can’t comprehend. 🙂 ) One night, I had dinner with a good friend (a transplanted Texan for about 20 years now) and his lovely family members (all native Californians), and when I got to their house around 4:30 pm, they had the windows wide open and IT WAS AMAZINGLY COMFORTABLE INSIDE. This, coupled with their casual answer to my query regarding when it is necessary to use an A/C (“Uhhh, pretty much never. We don’t own one,”) seriously threatened to short-circuit my synapses. Not needing an air conditioner is a completely foreign concept to me, especially considering that as of this writing, my town is on day 71 of 100 degree-plus temperatures for the year and there are plenty more forecast. I spent a few furtive moments ostensibly using the restroom but actually looking out all the windows for an A/C unit. They didn’t lie to me – there wasn’t one. It baffles me yet.
The most interesting and thought-provoking thing I saw was the nearly universal use of sweaters/sweatshirts/hoodies in the evenings. Now, you would think that people living in a place where the high and low temperatures are maybe 8 degrees apart at most wouldn’t really need to do this. But those people froze the minute the temperature hit about 68 – the same crazy people who willingly swim and surf in the frigid, subzero* waters of the Pacific Ocean, I might add! I, on the other hand, lived blissfully in tank tops and shorts or jeans and loved every second of the marvelous cool. [Note: In my previous post, I mentioned wearing a sweater when I went to Little Italy one night, but that was only for the purpose of covering my back pocket, which had my wallet in it. And, well, you saw how well THAT turned out…after I lost my wallet, I took my sweater off because I was actually too warm in it.] I said this was thought-provoking because even my Texas transplant friend had a long-sleeved shirt on in the evening, and it got me to pondering how humans will acclimate to just about anything, given enough time. And that, in turn, led me to thinking about how we, as followers of Christ, are to be in the world but not of it. In other words, don’t acclimate. This doesn’t mean “don’t get involved in the world around you.” It’s more like “don’t get used to your environment to the point that you do what the natives do.”
It’s unfortunate but true that many Christians mirror more of the world’s culture than they do Jesus. Now, I am not one of those people who thinks Christians need to be separatists tucked away inside their little four-walled chapels. Actually, I think we need to get our butts out into society. But people should be able to sense, if not see, something different about us. We should be walking down the street, same as they do, but we should be in tank tops when they’re all wearing sweatshirts – and we should be COMFORTABLE doing so. We should pique their interest merely from the way we carry ourselves. They should see us and wonder why we’re not cold in 68-degree weather. And when we tell them why, it should be with love, honor, and compassion, NOT with snobbery or an elitist attitude (which, if we are truly pursuing having the mind of Christ , shouldn’t be an issue). To further the analogy, if we start to get cold like they do, we should probably take a look at ourselves and figure out why all of a sudden we’re acting like them – and we definitely shouldn’t borrow a sweater.
I think sometimes, we go to extremes. Either we beat them over the head with condemnation in the name of Jesus, or we are completely “tolerant” of whatever they do, whenever, and however. The world doesn’t understand the concept of hating the sin and loving the sinner – they can’t differentiate one from the other. Sadly, many Christians cannot, either. But if we’re called to show the love of Jesus to those around us, we have to learn. And it has to be our genuine MO, what truly makes us live and move and have our being. Love is the key. We were never told to change anyone; that’s Jesus’ business. We are made to love with HIS love, in all its implications. So my suggestion is that we start with ourselves. Let’s fall so in love with the Lord that we can’t help but pour it out on others. I promise you that this one thing will make us stand out – we won’t have to try to be set apart. BUT. This one thing will also be the thing that others find irresistible, intriguing, and challenging in a good way.
Thank you, California, for making me think.
*This is only a slight exaggeration.