Yes, I just named this after a Harry Potter reference.
In any occupation relating to children there’s a handful of rules that always reign true: don’t hit them, make sure they go to the bathroom before going anywhere, and don’t have favorites. I have a serious issue with the last one.
While instagram/mommy bloggers go out of their way to make their children appear utterly unblemished on their equally pearly white wall backdrops, I go out of my way to seek out the nuggets with the most reprehensible behavior. From my earliest days I’ve been on a constant, subconscious quest to seek out the most naughty children I can get my hands on. Over time I’ve surmised that this instinct is fueled by a drive to circle their potential in neon highlighter and “out love” their misbehavior. Afterall, years of studying human interactions, researchers have all concluded the primary reason we act in ways that we shouldn’t is because we aren’t confident in our own worth or loved properly. Both of those concepts make me sick to my bones.
The mischievous bubs draw me into their world without a word. I can see the shenanigans plotting in the way their eyes sparkle and I’m sucked in, weak in the knees, and unable to forget the way the corners of their little mouths spiral up to the corners of their faces.
When I arrived at Siyazama in Gugulethu there was this little nugget who had “rascal” painted across her obsidian face and I had to use every ounce of self control in me to not lunge at her and claim her as my own. I turned to the administrator and answered my own question, “This one...she’s naughty, hey?” The rotund, African mama let out a wide eyed, exasperated “Yoh!” as she placed her callused hands on my shoulder and laughed, confirming what I already knew. Moments like this prove that true love really does exist. There hasn’t been a day since when her little face hasn’t popped into my mind and all I’ve been trying to place one of my eight fingers on what exactly it was about her that I was so enchanted by and I’ve finally found it: I see me in her.
I often tell people I popped out of the womb ready to raise hell and wear a beanie. Nothing comes more naturally to me and I feel out of sorts when a day goes by that I haven’t done either. I like to pretend that my favorite use of time is saving African children with disabilities, and while I do love that, my natural knack lies more along the lines of throwing my friend’s names into worship/Christmas/children’s songs which immediately turn them into highly inappropriate jams, making even the most vulgar of lyricists blush. I structure my day full of opportunities for hilarious detours and will go further out of my way for a practical joke or chance to make someone laugh than is probably healthy. I can’t remember a single conversation when I didn’t pepper in at least three sarcastic references. I muster up all of my gumption to make even the most mundane tasks a party. I use my 20 years of ballet strength and flexibility to straddle the line of political correctness with one foot on tasteful and the other on abominable. When I message a member of my board I fight the itch to not start it with “Hey dawg” and filter out all of the black emoji’s that I lace throughout my conversations in order to seem moderately respectable.
I swear, I drink, and I unashamedly admit that I love crop tops because they show off my abs. I wear leather pants to church most weekends and I’m pretty sure I’ve been written out of many family member’s wills because of the combination of the fact that I go to church in a bar and my relationship with my best friend is questionably platonic from an outsider’s perspective. I genuinely enjoy gay people more than conservatives say I should and I don’t want to change them. I spent more time browsing @dailymanbun on instagram and setting unrealistic expectations for my future boyfriend than I've spent reading my Bible today. I'm a living, breathing, walking, talking smirky emoji face and I will get on top of a table or countertop and dance to "No Diggity" with my best friend stone cold sober. From a midwestern “rules and regulations” standpoint, I’m a fishy Christian. To put it quite bluntly, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea...especially your classic WASP with control issues, mental boxes and an inclination towards stereotypes.
I am in no way saying that I’m perfect or that I don’t work on my sometimes questionable behavior. I have mentors and people built into my life so that I don’t venture so far into the shenanigans of life that I stop leading a life that glorifies Jesus. Ultimately I answer to an Audience of One and as long as I’m doing my best to show others how much Jesus loves them, I don’t care what others say. In fact, I love the slightly naughty streak I was born with. I can't tell you the amount of times people have come up to me and said "You're not like most Christians I've met, you're super fun." This makes all of the raised eyebrows and lectures from well-meaning individuals worth it. I think it's our duty as people who are trying to point people to Jesus to be the most life and love filled individuals our communities have seen. Since meeting that little girl I’ve had a confidence develop in this statement that I know to be true: God loves the mischievous.
When we’re full of mischief, we’re open to taking risks. We’re less worried about what people might say and we’re more concerned with making an impact on people. While the goody-too-shoes sit on the side lines and remain paralyzed by fear of the unknown, the mischievous squirts purse their lips and hold their heads high while attempting what the teachers, parents, and bystanders have said we shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t do. We forget about this scandalous concept that we’re swallowed by called “grace” and think that stepping outside the lines of strict religious regimen could somehow get us condemned to the depths of hell. Physics tells us that objects in motion stay in motion, and this is no different. I think Jesus sees us coloring on walls from our earliest days and puts his hands on our faces saying “YES. I CAN WORK WITH THIS. I LOVE YOU, LITTLE TROUBLEMAKER.” And then he goes and gives the brains at Crayola and Mr. Clean the concepts of washable markers and magic erasers.
So my friends, my encouragement to you today is this: cause some trouble. Embrace your sketchy side, and stop playing it so safe. We’re never going to be able to change the world if we continue to play by all of the rules that others have created for us. Jesus broke all kinds of societal rules, so as long as we keep loving him and loving others at the heart of everything we do, we're in good company. We need to stop being boring and calling it "God," and start being the risk taking, adventure seeking creatures he made us to be.