Dr. Sullivan was my honors English teacher during my freshman year of high school. She was a unique individual to say the least. She dressed like a left-over hippie, was quick to laugh, and didn’t take life too seriously. She could have been a college professor, but for some reason, unknown to me, had made herself at home among high school students instead. She dove into great literature with her students, and her classroom was an open forum for discussions. However, when a student would stray too far off topic, or try to change the subject, she would laugh a little and announce their answer was, “Irrelevant!” With that quick and succinct nudge, she would direct the student back on topic.
Relevant: closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered; appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances
Being relevant feels especially important in today’s fast-paced, social media-fueled world. It’s easy to catch the FOMO (fear of missing out) bug, when we see others doing, saying, or posting all the right things.
Because of Pause, Renew, Next, I have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Each of these mediums is curated differently, but being relevant is oh so important on each of these platforms. On Twitter, one must have something witty or poignant to say, especially if it’s relevant to the latest news. On Instagram, you must curate the most beautiful photos with the most meaningful taglines and captions, or you must have the most authentic, natural-looking selfies which are never truly authentic, because they are, after-all, selfies. On Facebook, you must make the correct pronouncement, tag the right people, or post the perfect meme to receive likes, comments, and shares. These likes, retweets, shares, and comments affirm that you are, indeed, relevant. That your voice, your pictures, and your opinions have a place at the table.
Now, I have never been a popular person: not in elementary school, not in middle school, not in high school, and not in college. Sure, I’m well-liked, but never popular. Actually, I am perfectly okay with that. Popularity can fall quickly. All it takes is one wrong move, and the crowd can turn against you. No thanks, I’d rather stay away from that kind of pressure.
In the same way that popular kids in a high school decide who’s cool and who’s not, cancel culture has recently stepped onto the scene to declare who is relevant, and who is no longer relevant. In today’s world, we can all, in some way, curate our own conversation, picking online and in real life the people we choose to keep at the table, thereby choosing our own discussion and our own participants.
Enter Jesus. You guys, I have never been more in love with Him than I have been lately. There are many people who have much to say about Him. Some of those people have recently been cancelled. Some of them may deserve to be cancelled. Jesus, however, can speak for Himself. He never disappoints. He never fails, and he is certainly never irrelevant. His words ring true, and they are always on point. He brought people to the table that the Pharisees of his day pronounced irrelevant. He chose rag-tag disciples, a crude band of brothers, and discipled them into greatness.
What Jesus is teaching me lately is to walk in step with His Spirit, at His pace. To be relevant, we often feel pressure to respond immediately and correctly to the pressures at hand. Jesus, however, is never hurried. He is measured in His responses. People were full of chaos around him, asking for healings, touching him, following him, and pressuring him. In response, he never worried; he never rushed. He didn’t curate the perfect letter or meme to respond to their accusations. No, he prayed. He followed His Father’s orders. He took time to love on the people in his path… even those who were not popular or relevant. He did not worry about what people thought of him. He listened to His Father’s instructions only. This is what it means to be relevant.
There will always be news cycles, disasters, cultural changes, and important social issues. You may very well be called to respond to them. You may be called to speak up. However, when you follow Jesus, you can know that there is no pressure or worry to do so immediately. The world rushes to reaction, but if you don’t curate the perfect response in a timely fashion, you are not irrelevant.
Mamas, as you care for your children, you are relevant in God’s Kingdom. Teachers, as you faithfully make lesson plans, you are relevant in God’s Kingdom. Counselors, as you sit with the brokenhearted, you are relevant in God’s Kingdom. Pastors, as you teach and shepherd the flock, you are relevant in God’s Kingdom. Retail workers, as you stock shelves, you are relevant in God’s Kingdom.
There is no popularity in God’s kingdom. There is no hurry in God’s kingdom. There is no pressure there. His words are always relevant, and as we learn to walk in step with Him, He will use us in timely ways to minister to the people in our paths. And that, I am learning, is what it means to be relevant.
Pause, Renew, Next: Take a moment to be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) Breathe deeply and rest. Now, stop and consider in what ways you have felt pressure lately to be relevant. How can you begin to shift your thinking, your worry, and your perspective as you think about the way that Jesus responds to pressure.
May we learn to walk in step with the Spirit and be eternally relevant to a world who is rushing.
Pause, Renew, Next!