As a five-foot-six, awkward, brace-faced sixth grader living in the late '90s, I remember the main places girls at my school shopped at were the Gap and Limited Too, now known as Justice.
It had been a cold spring break, and I had a little shopping spree at the local mall in Nashville, Tennessee. Assuring my mom that there were, in fact, little girl clothes at Gap, she let me shop there. We bought several bright springy outfits, and it seemed to fit the bill for bringing a bright springy feeling to a gloomy cold spring break.
I was so excited to go back to school and showcase some of my new spring clothes. I had prepared over the weekend exactly which outfit I was going to wear for the first day back at school. Taking great care I laid it out and anticipated the looks of the popular girls in my class. Looking back, I don’t really know what was so special about those popular girls I was trying to impress, but I definitely was aiming for an impression. We have all been there, whether as a teen or even an adult.
Monday finally arrived. I walked into school, up the stairs, and around the corner where the sixth grade lockers were. As I came around the corner, there were the two popular girls I was trying to impress, so just maybe we would be friends. Much to my surprise, they were wearing the same shirt as me in two different colors. Womp womp. Even though I was disappointed, I decided to use it as leverage as something we had in common.
I wanted to fit in, and boy did I that day. I was included at recess in their boy drama, lunch table, and doing much of nothing but in a clique. My real friends sat on the outside confused wondering what had come over me during spring break. One even approached me and asked if I was going to be one of them and exclude people. In that moment, I realized that my love for people in general made me different — I had influence.
Those popular friends didn’t end up working out for me. They had popularity but not good influence on people.
Lisa Bevere said, “Popularity is common, but influence is power.”
Looking back on the story from Mark 2, Jesus is preaching in a crowded house where there was no more room to receive people. Jesus drew a crowd, not because he was popular, but because he had influence. He, in fact, was not generally liked among “popular” people in the church or city. Jesus definitely was not common either. He did, however, have a tremendous amount of influence on people's lives. When people came in contact with him, they left his presence changed.
Four brave men decided that day that they did not just want to be a part of the crowd. They did not just want to go to a worship service with their friends and enjoy because that is what everyone else was doing. No, they ran to grab their sick friend who needed not the popularity of Jesus, but the influence of Jesus’ love and power in his life that could bring healing. The influence those four guys also had literally carried and dropped him down into the presence of the healer.
In us should be the overwhelming power of God — not for popularity sake because everyone does it or goes to church or whatever excuse you want to put in there — but for influence.
Caroline Hare is the Next Generations Pastor at Destin United Methodist Church. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.