the whole concept of cool

I have the kind of not feeling well that doesn't go away any time soon, like for nine months or so. Some women I know feel great when they're pregnant, others get life-threateningly ill. Consider me somewhere in the middle. Hopefully in five or six weeks I'll stop feeling like I have the stomach flu.

When I can think straight, I've been thinking about the whole concept of cool lately, and trying to remember my childhood. I think I got to be popular in fifth and sixth grade because I was the new kid (so no one knew my history of uncoolness) and I wore this fashionable Levi denim jacket and matching long skirt around the beginning of the school year.
[Now, please note that I had never in my life owned designer clothes. By some fluke, this outfit had been a birthday gift from my aunt or my parents or someone.] I actually remember Jill Rains coming up to me and saying, "I like your outfit". And just like that, it was settled. Two years of being--nearly--harrassment-free. Two years of being the perpetrator of putting others down, if only by association with bullies and failure to defend the defenseless. Then, just like that, I started junior high and it was over. Back to the unidentified middle of the social ladder.

I'm reading Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller, and he has this fascinating argument about cool and comparison. Let's see if I can recap it here in a nutshell. During the Garden of Eden phase for humanity, we found out who we were from God, with whom we enjoyed unbroken relationship. God told us who we were, how we were loved, how much we were worth. But when the Fall happened and that relationship underwent some level of separation, we didn't have God telling us those things or maybe we just couldn't hear God as well. But we needed to know who we were, if we were loved and how much we were valued, so we began comparing ourselves to each other and looking to a jury of our peers to deliver the verdict. This has brought humanity to a life boat mentality, you know, like the ethical question about who would you throw overboard and who would you save? We go through life trying to convince others of our goodness, of our value, so we can convince them to save us.

You see, he points out that, as silly as concepts like popularity and cool are, on some level we feel our very survival is at stake. We must climb the social ladder or die. This is why small things like getting cut off on the highway can throw some people into such a rage. It isn't the two seconds it adds to the length of their drive, it is the implication that they might be worth less than the person ahead of them. All in all, it is very threatening. This part is great:
That said, an understanding of Christianity as an identity in the lifeboat by which we compare ourselves to others is entirely inappropriate. This faith is larger than the lifeboat, outside of it, you might say. Jesus would indicate the greatest thing you and I can do to display we know Him is to love our brothers and sisters unconditionally, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love our enemies. (emphasis mine)
So all this I'm stirring around in my mixing pot along with the notion that Christ is actually in the least of these. Along with God, who came to create a new world order that is upside down, where the last are first and the least are greatest. Wrestling with the implications, trying desperately to get my mind around it. Wondering what it would be like if believers actually stood for this upside-down culture, wondering if I could raise my children to be people who are willing to lay down their lives for the least of these? Wondering if I myself can be such a person? That's enough for today . . .