I vividly remember the feeling. It was a pitiful amalgamation of fear, embarrassment, insecurity, and confusion. I would be minding my own business, eating my lunch with my friends, and one of the “cool” guys would pass by on his way to the “cool” table, laughing, pointing, and repeating the same dreaded phrase over, and over, and over…
“Nintendo table! Nintendo Table! Nintendo Table! HAHAHA! Nerds!”
You see, I sat at the Nintendo table. We had friends come and go throughout the years, but my two best friends throughout school were Jonathan Needham and Thomas Rimmer. Jon and Thomas were the only two guys in school who I had a lot in common with; we liked basketball like everyone else, but our lives didn’t revolve around it. We didn’t hunt like the other guys; we played video games. We talked about Star Trek, Star Wars, and The X-Files. And we committed the ULTIMATE sin against the popularity gods: we made good grades.
I was blissfully unaware of my social status for the first seven or eight years of my life. Either that or there was no discernible social status to be aware of until children unfortunately began recognizing the social norms seen in their older siblings or parents.
Take a moment to let that idea sink in. If not for the impact of society, we couldn’t make fun of anyone; we wouldn’t know what to make fun of in the first place. In other words, if not for pop culture, legions of high school and college girls wouldn’t know that they’re expected to dye their hair blonde, beg Daddy for a Ford Mustang, and preface every phrase with the word “like.” For the sake of equality, guys wouldn’t know that treating women with respect makes them sissies, computers are for guys who never want to have a girlfriend, and unless their laugh sounds like “HUH, HUH, HUH,” then they must be something other than 100% male.
This is why I love children, especially those younger than 8-years-old. One might even say that I envy them. Watching them live their lives without inhibition is almost liberating. I have three amazing nephews; Jackson Luke, Harrison Cruz, and Lincoln Dean. Luke is just a baby right now, but the smile that spreads across at the simplest of things is enough to make an entire table of adults say, “Awwww.”
Harrison is almost three years old, and he’s like a bull in a china closet. It’s already plain to see that he’s athletically gifted. He’s very strong for his age, and he is absolutely full of mischievousness and personality. He’s the type of kid that you can’t help but laugh at whenever he gets in trouble.
Then there’s Lincoln. Lincoln loves sports (and is good at them). He’s cute, has an extremely friendly personality, and speaks with an east Texas drawl. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I see a lot of myself in Lincoln. He loves to draw, he has an imagination that never takes a break, and he’s incredibly sensitive.
Lincoln is also incredibly smart; certainly much smarter than I was at his age. The other two will probably be as well, but since Lincoln is 7 (his birthday was earlier this month), it’s becoming apparent that he is not an average child.
Lincoln will probably always make good grades. He’s sensitive, creative, and intelligent, so he’ll probably enjoy reading. He’s already beating his dad in sports video games, so he might be tech-savvy as well. I want Lincoln to feel free to use those natural gifts that God gave him without inhibition or shame, and I’m scared to death that the next few years will change something in him due to the overwhelming pressure that society, even among elementary students, places upon people to conform.
Several months ago, we had an unbelievable church service. It was the kind of Sunday night service that leaves everyone very solemn around the altars at the end of service. The altar call left people crying, on their knees, relishing the presence of God. Towards the end, everyone who was left became quiet. Several hundred people sat silently in the pews, on the floor, and against the steps of the altar. There was a peace in the air–that beautiful, calming presence of God.
Then out of nowhere, a little, trembling voice started crying out with a sense of desperation, saying, “Jesus, I love you! I want to have more of you, God! Please, Jesus! I want to have more of you!”
It was my little nephew, six-years-old, eyes closed with tears pouring down his face with his arms wrapped around the neck of his father. When Lincoln prays, it’s not an act. He’s not like a typical child who might sneak a peek through his closed eyes to see who is looking around; you can feel Lincoln actually reaching out and touching God. It’s the strangest thing to witness, and almost has an eery quality.
Lincoln doesn’t care. He’s a child. A brilliant, loving, sensitive child who adores his family and isn’t afraid to be himself.
And then there is society, waiting to attempt to rob him of the zeal and passion that he has for life and for God. You might ask what kind of life a seven-year-old has; they don’t have responsibility, stress, and worries. Exactly! Without the pressure and demands of the world, we could all probably be a bit closer to ourselves, to nature, and to God.
I’m not advocating that we start some sort of a cult and build a small society in the mountains, but I do feel the need to express a distaste for all that this world attempts to steal from us. We are individuals, created by a loving, all-knowing God who crafts us to be a unique piece of the beautiful puzzle that He has constructed.
And then society attempts to strip us of our individuality. We are, as it is written in Psalm 139:14, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God meticulously designed us to be something special, each and every one of us.
Society speaks of “being yourself.” Actually, advertising agencies speak of “being yourself.” In other words, if you really want to have what has been misrepresented as individuality, you need to wear a certain style of clothes. You need to listen to a certain style of music. You have to stop laughing this way. Quit hanging around those people! You’ll box yourself into the unpopular crowd if you actually confess to enjoying the geeky stuff. You need to FIT IN in order to STAND OUT!
Does that make sense? Of course not.
I’m taking a moment here to encourage all of the ones who want to sit at the Nintendo Table in their lives. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t change who you are based upon what is popular (it won’t matter later anyways; trust me!). Don’t be afraid to reach out for God in an increasingly areligious world. Make use of the talents and the tastes that He has put in your life.
Take a seat with us. We’d love to have you.