Wounds heal. Embarrassing photographs remain.
This Sunday I was reflecting with our congregation about the shift that happened in the church with the Gen-Xers. All of a sudden we were tired of being forced to wear sensible slacks and button downs to show our “Christian-ness”. We wanted to show that we could go to concerts, dye our hair, get a tattoo (of a cross) and maybe… just maybe… wear jeans and Birkenstocks to church and not go directly to hell without passing GO.
This new generation of Millennials grew up with motorcycle riding, beer drinking, cigar smoking pastors… but some of us are old enough to remember the transition from suits and ties to… well… sport coats and skinny ties. I remember once showing up to church in Khaki pants, a dress shirt, and a tie but being sent home from church to change because I was wearing sandals… and not wearing socks to church… that was just a little to “out there” for the church I grew up in.
Sure, now it is a little lame when a church proudly displays on its home page in bold type “casual dress” or “feel free to wear jeans“. But some of you don’t realize that we had to fight for your right to party. We had to endure old people (that we didn’t even know) telling us to take our hats off, or letting us know just how disrespectful it was to God to not wear a belt when we had belt loops on our pants. In our defense, no one would have noticed our belt loops if the greeter at the door of the church hadn’t told us he wouldn’t let us in unless we tucked in our shirts.
I’m not saying I’m Rosa Parks and your ability to “come as you are” to church was equivalent to the civil rights movement… but regardless… you’re welcome, ridiculous looking kid in jogger pants on the worship team.
The following is a chronicle of the evolution of a 90’s Jesus Freak.
1. The left ear piercing – The first piercing any Jesus Freak first experiments with is the standard single left ear. Why? Because at the time, piercing your right ear identified you to people over 55 as a homosexual. And you are not trying to misrepresent yourself. You are going for “I’m a cool guy!” not “I’m in to cool guys!”
This piercing is usually preceded by purchasing slip on earrings on Jr. High overnight trips. That way you can return to your home to gauge how mad your father will actually get when he thinks you pierced your ear. My dad ripped it off my ear and then was sad it wasn’t real.
2. The additional left ear piercing – once you have begged, pleaded, coerced, and cajoled your parents with good grades in order to get the first piercing… you realize a lot of teens have them. You start listening to harder music like Project 86, Ghoti Hook or MXPX and decide one piercing is not hardcore enough. After all, you did just buy some 20 inch opening wide leg jeans from County Seat. Hardcore is practically your middle name
3. Evening things out – piercings 3 and 4 come as a package deal. As you get older you start to develop OCD. And having two tribal looking silver earrings from Walmart on one ear is asymmetrical. It starts getting on your nerves every time you look in the mirror. In reality, it is because your sub-conscious is telling you that you look like a goober. But you convince yourself that it just needs to be evened out. If two holes look stupid… four will be awesome.
This brings you to a fork in the road. You could take out one earring in your left ear and do a single earring in each ear. You could also move up the gauge while doing this. But lets face it, you’re a kid at youth group. You are not smoking weed and more earrings will make a bigger statement. So you put two fresh holes in your right ear and it fixes that crick in your neck from the extra weight on the left side.
4.The one earring to rule them all – now that you have four piercings with rather traditional placement, you start to think outside the box. You think to yourself,”You know… I’ve always wanted to look like an elf or a Persian Princess.” So you piece your upper cartilage.
This will begin a series of sleepless nights because every time you roll over on your ear it feels like someone stabbed you your ear… because… well… someone did. If you are really OCD and stupid (which I think the pattern developing here is that I was) you can do both ears at the same time. That way you won’t sleep at all.
5. Finally we reach the Big ONE – If you were a girl in the 90’s it was either a nose ring or a bellybutton ring. You know, for when you and a girl friend want to be in so much pain you throw up or pass out. For guys it was eyebrow or tongue because we needed something douchey enough to match that barbed wire tattoo. Personally, I had a tongue ring for 72 hours.
It takes a special kind of ridiculous to pierce your tongue. It really doesn’t hurt to get it done, but it is like installing a wrecking ball in your mouth. My friend had his done and he chipped his tooth before his tongue had even fully healed. Not to mention you can’t eat or drink normally for six weeks.
The day after I pierced my tongue I showed up to church as a youth group sponsor for a Jr. High event. There were no less than 4 e-mails, 2 letters and 3 phone calls from parents. The gist of all were, “How can you let Lucas have a tongue ring and be a Jr. High sponsor? Now my twelve year old thinks tongue rings are cool and wants one. When I say ‘no’ they retort with, ‘Well Lucas (Who is 19 yrs old) has one.’ How can I refuse my child when they have such an airtight argument?!? You better act fast or I will be forced to let my twelve year old child pierce their tongue.”
Ok. They didn’t phrase it exactly like that, but I believe I captured the sentiment of helpless parents everywhere. The next day I tried taking the piercing out during youth group and putting it back in after. That didn’t work out too well. And that is how you have a tongue ring for 72 hours.
6. Completing the look – in addition to body modifications, being a Jesus Freak often meant cutting and dying your own hair. The following are mistakes.
- The under bowl – what is really cool is to grow your hair to your chin. Then shave everything but the top of your head. That way you can look like a greasy punk, but on hot days you can pull it all back into a pony tail on top and reveal that secretly you’re going to live in a trailer park when you grow up.
- The blonde that should never have been – I’m talking all the frosted tips and blond cone spikes that should have brought NSYNC fans and punks together, but really just made us all smell like burnt hair.
- Cutting your own hair – Oh YES! Do this at least once! With your dad’s beard trimmer. Make sure you run out of battery half way through and have to go to Walmart to get more.
- The “Can I get a witness” – If you are a guy, went to youth group, and at some point DIDN’T shave a cross into your head… you aren’t really a Jesus Freak. You probably listened to Out of Eden in the car.
It is my hope and prayer that there is someone out there reading this that has no idea what I’m talking about. That there is a generation that escaped all this “transition” and is happily oblivious wearing their flat billed hats, jogger pants, and long tees looking like androgynous children playing dress up. You can do all of that because we endured things like Ska Music, Joy Electric, Lord I Lift Your Name On High, and competitive hacky-sack. You are welcome, next generation of Christians. And don’t forget that they don’t serve breakfast in hell.