Constrained by a Bow Tie: The Bondage of Eccentricity

Last Sunday I did something I haven’t done (at least willingly) in months. Many months. To anyone else, what I did would be incredibly insignificant and likely unnoticeable by quite a number of people. To me, though, I was making quite a step.

Last Sunday I went to church without my bow tie.

If you don’t know me, you may well be thinking, “So what?” (Or, perhaps, “Wait, you usually wear a bow tie to church? *cough* loser *cough*”) If you do know me, you still may be thinking at least, “What’s the big deal?”

Well, let me explain. I am weird. Or at least this is what I am in the minds of many. Now, I don’t mean the “Come on, Johnny, stay away from that weirdo” kind of weird. More of the nerdy, silly, all-your-friends-make-fun-of-you kind of weird, with some eccentricity and quirkiness thrown in. People know the things that make me weird, and they are used to them. One of my well-known eccentricities is that I always wear bow ties when I dress up. Which is every Sunday morning (because I love to wear bow ties).

Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with this kind of habit. I enjoy it. Yet, there is a problem involved as well, an underlying fault of mine.

I am in bondage to my eccentricity.

What do I mean by that? See, I have been “weird” for years. When I was younger it was more of a bizarre, annoying kind. Now it has mellowed to what it is. In this time, all those who know me have come to expect certain kinds of weirdness from me. Since I adopted bow ties in October 2012, they immediately became a part of my eccentric image. So many people expect to see me in a bow tie on Sunday.  By this point, they might even ask why if I were to not wear one. And for that reason, I usually feel that I must continue to wear them. People need to see me being the Caleb they expect me to be, with all the right quirks and oddities. Otherwise I might attract unwanted attention.

All of this comes back to one problem: I am afraid to challenge the image others have of me, because for a long time many of my interactions, especially with my friends, have been based on that image. For years, I imagined that I must continue to maintain certain quirks and weirdness in order for people to have any interest in me. That seemed to be what made people like me. They would laugh and smile and joke with me, and these parts of my personality seemed to be the essence of my identity with them.

Therein lies my real issue: I based my identity to others on my quirks. You see, every person really has a three-part identity. There is you as you define yourself, you as others define you, and you as God defines you. Of course, for all who believe in Jesus, we can know for sure how God defines us. We are His sons and daughters in Christ. Our identity before God is completely in Christ. God never thinks of us outside of our stance in Christ.

Whatever God does is right. Therefore we also ought to think of ourselves completely in the reality of being in Christ. In Christ, our worth is not based on how much people like us, or what qualities we have that make others like us, but we find our value in being God’s special creation and chosen people, the object of His unconditional love. We are loved without condition by God, and so we ought not think of ourselves based on the conditions others place on their attention. Even if people do just like me for my eccentricity (which I have come to realize is ridiculously false), my identity is found in Christ, who died of love to unite me with Himself.

Here is my point. I should not root my understanding of who I am in quirks of my personality, which may change or experience rejection. I should not behave in such a way that people define me by my weirdness. Instead, in all things, Christ should be preeminent. Jesus should consume me so that my thoughts of myself are all based on my position in Him. Jesus should be so much the point so my words and deeds that others find their definitions of me all based on Him. In all three spheres, my identity should be rooted in Christ, for He is the one who made and redeemed me, and to whose image the Father is conforming me (albeit slowly, it seems).

As for you, I suggest the same. Don’t find your entire life so tied to anything that if it is shaken, your sense of who you are is shaken, unless that is the Rock of Christ, who cannot be shaken. When you interact with others, speak and act so that Christ shines through and someone cannot describe you without mentioning Jesus’ name. Then your identity will be fully rooted in Christ, and then you will be exactly who God is working to make you, and you will find joy and security in that.

I'm 22. I'm married with a toddler and a newborn. love Jesus Christ. I grew up a Southern Baptist and now situate myself within Evangelical Calvinism (which isn't TULIP!). I also draw substantially from N. T. Wright, Peter Leithart, and Alastair Roberts. I go to the Baptist College of Florida. I'm also a bit nerdy.