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Conformi-Tea (con·form·i·ty)

Picture it, you see a woman, she's dressed to the gawds. Hair done, nails done, everything did (in my Drake's voice)! I mean, this chick is snatched from head to toe. You give her the once over, and since she looks so nice, you owe it to her to look twice. But that's where you stopped, at her toes.

Although her shoes are designer, I'm talking; they are kuttee (cute); something distracts you and catches your attention at the same time. And there it was, winking at you, the pinky toe that won't quit. I mean, it's working like it was hammer time. Well, that's me. I'm the pinky toe. No matter how much I wanted to blend into the in-crowd, I always stuck out. Forget the sore thumb; I stuck out like a little phalange of a wide-width foot trying to fit in a narrow shoe.

I recall that time I was neck-deep in a pyramid scheme. Why? All in the name of love, of course. Anyway, I remember a part of drinking the kool-aid was them telling us that in this life, we are all being brainwashed; it just depends which brainwashing you'll subscribe to (stick a pin here). I never forgot that line because the reality is there could possibly be some truth to this madness. At least for me. It all took me back to a defining moment in my life. Honey, pull up a chair 'cause if you have kids, I see a room raid like the FBI on a drug tip in their futures.

High school—a most confusing time for many. You're not quite sure who you are or where you fit. All you know is you don't want to be the emo kid who bites their hair that everyone thinks smells weird. I can't quite recall the grade, but this incident is stained in my mind like curry on white Formica. So, it turns out I was a part of the popular kids. Was I popular or just a let-in? I'm not sure (shrugs shoulder). Anyway, the gang woke up one sunny day and chose death. Someone had the brilliant idea to send this 'bone thugs and harmony' look alike across the school's side-wall to get a then-popular 'spirit' called Night Train. I was all for living on the edge, but that PK (preachers kid) life had a fear of God engraved so deep in the recesses of my innermost being that I could almost feel the cut-hip in reel-time.

If you've been around here for a while, you'd know I see things in 3D with cinematography and a whole score accompaniment. In .5 seconds, I played out what that conversation would be like at home, and I decided I didn't need that kind of heat in my life. Or as my philosophical friends would say, it would behoove me not to partake in that schoolyard, last supper. I wasn't gonna be Judas or anything and betray the fold, but I wasn't interested in the sip, sip, pass either. Something about it wasn't sitting well with me. Call me scaredy cat all you want. That day, I chose life.

Fast forward to the last period, and some snitch was vying to get stitches—seeing as the whole crew was hauled off to the Principal's office for a CSI interrogation. My lil' adolescent body must have had a moment of temporary paralysis 'cause I was sure I was gonna die that day. I heard the trumpet from Zion as my whole life flashed before my eyes. All I could see was me standing at the pearly gate waiting to get in.

Amidst my internal hyperventilating, luckily, I was not named among the accused. (insert crazy praise break - runs round school 2 times screaming - thank you, Jesus!)

The next thing I know, parents were hauled in, suspensions issued, and Raquel was for once not caught in the mix. Thank God for small favours. That day I learned a valuable lesson, it wasn't that I would never get into any shenanigans, but I had the power to pick my poison. I realized I could follow, or I could lead. even though no one might follow me, I'd feel satisfied knowing (in my Frank Sinatra voice) "I did it my way!" I realized if I moved solo by keeping my monkey business to myself, then the chances of being caught were greatly reduced. Hence, the seed of shadiness was planted.

You'd think that peer pressure was only subjected to life on the playground. You'd think that while out here in the ghetto adult world that you'd be free of the impulse to follow the crowd. My friend, think again. The lie detector determined that was a lie! Despite that adolescent girl who had that mind-blowing epiphany, she still grew to be a woman who conformed—a lot (insert head in palm emoji).

I conformed financially, making some really dumb decisions to do things to impress people—I'm almost certain, didn't have me to study. I conformed spiritually, constantly playing on the river, on the bank with my Christianity. Then, of course, I conformed relationally, so much so that I sometimes still wanna cock back and slap myself. Not only for the things I allowed but also for the things I did to someone good son. Twenty years of dating, looking just like a wayward Israelite—going around in circles. Anyway, I digress. I suppose you live, you learn and then choose luvs.

(unstick pin here) So let's revisit the kookie kool-aid klan. I'm sure on some level you disagreed with the sentiment of being brainwashed. But here's why I get it. Whether you believe in Haile Selassie, Budah, Allah, the Universe or Jehovah, you've bought into a belief system. Just as we Christians read and are governed by the Bible, like those who are not, we've all plugged into somethingwhether we confess it or not. At the end of the day, what we consume is what comes out of us. What we believe is what manifests.

The Bible says it like this: Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT) I believe KJV would say don't conform to the world; however, you have free will. You get to decide who you'll serve, even if you conclude you'll put your trust in nothing. You determine what influences (brainwashes) you.

Conformity, in a nutshell, is when people adapt their thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, actions, or perceptions to match those of groups or persons to which they belong, that they seek, or that they want to be approved of.

I'll give you an example, all over the world, we see prayer or the mere mention of God being removed from various institutions because they don't want to offend other religions. But the moment a disaster strikes, every media outlet and their grandma is calling for prayer. Are we praying to the same God that was just ignored and disregard? Forget a friend, I'm asking for me.

On a more personal note, think back to every time you slept with homeslice (the man who's not your husband or the woman—whatever floats your boat), knowing full well you profess Christianity, you conformed. Every time you joined in the grapevine gossip, talking about something you heard rather than what you knew, only to fit in, you conformed. Each time you lied to the government for your boss, you conformed. Every time you tried to keep homie from seeing and providing for his kids....(okay I stop). Simply put, every time you gave up what you know to be right to entertain what you know is wrong, you conformed.

But you know who didn't conform? Abraham, Noah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Joseph, and Peter (he was lil' on the fence, but he came around eventually). Man, they all make me want to know more about this God that you'd rather get burned to death, in a furnace heated seven times hotter, than to bow? Who is this God that you'd be willing to sacrifice the very son that He promised you? The one, your wife bore when she was nearly hitting 100. Who is this God that would cause one to say, "Ah no, just put me in there with the lions. I good, thanks?"

How trustworthy is this God that causes a man over 500-years-old to start building a monstrosity of a boat, regardless of how silly he must have looked to those around him? A fine young tender thing, who could have slept with the King's wife, decided nope, I'd rather go to jail, again, for something I didn't do than conform to this dumbness lady. Peter, despite falling off while walking on water, and the whole denial fiasco was crucified upside because of what he believed. Talk about if no retreat, no surrender was a person. Whew, chall! I. Ain't. Ready!

It's not that any of these characters we read about were without flaws, but the point is when it mattered, they rose to the occasion. They stood for something! It makes me wonder, though, in this modern culture, do we stand for anything other than being overly offended? What would we do for fame, or what part of our soul would we sell for fortune? What are we willing to suffer or exchange just to say I have something that someone else doesn't? When will you be okay being like a pinky toe sticking out of some Jimmy Choo heels? Or because it's Jimmy's, you're gonna hurt yourself contorting to look cute?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I, too, have been guilty. The minute something wasn't going my way, I dropped the standard to appease what I was trying to hold onto. But these days, I'd rather slather my body in honey and sit in the forest waiting for a sleuth of bears before I entertain another uncircumcised Philistine (see 1 Samuel 17). I'd rather be a sand salesman in the Sahara desert before I compromise my witness. I'm challenging myself lately to make my words match my actions.

Letting my yes be yes and ensuring my no holds firm—still, folks like tap-dancing in that grey area. Even God wants you to make a choice. John pens it like this: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!" (Revelation 3:15) Sorry, God's not about that lukewarm life. Pick a struggle, fam!

Growing up, our parents would often ask, "If everyone jumped off the bridge, are you gonna jump too?" Back then, even though your mouth said 'No,' you probably would have jumped. But through your now-adult eyes, you know that makes no sense. Look here, sugar pie, someone will always be better looking, someone will always have more. Someone will always be further, and someone will always be better at it or even more talented. BUT the gag is they will NEVER be you! “So you're a little weird? Work it! A little different? OWN it! Better to be a nerd than one of the herd!”Mandy Hale

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