From Nicaragua to Indonesia, I’ve witnessed a vast similarity that binds young people together. It was unearthed again as I stepped into the city of Johannesburg, in South Africa, where NYC Africa was hosted in December 2016. This similarity binding young people together all across the world is a passion made of tenacious grit that comes from the personality of Jesus Christ. It is the unbridled belief that we are enough.
I often say that youth ministry gives me hope for humanity. Youth hold the untamed passion of the world. The more I see it, the more I believe that we need more of it. The passion I experienced last December was intensified and electric because it was the first time in history that Nazarene youth had come together from across the great continent of Africa for a conference. I felt a sense of pride for the team who had organized the event and an even greater sense of humility for having the chance to be a part of it.
I shared the stage with a lot of excellent speakers, but one in particular, who is at least twenty years my junior, left a resounding impression on me and taught me an important lesson. I will never forget her, nor will I forget the audience’s emphatic affirmation as she shared her truth.
The lesson she taught boiled down to: There is no use in being anyone but yourself, especially when the self you have to offer is what the world needs. The message was loud and clear that outsiders are welcomed as insiders, and the gift of the body of Christ is that you are unique in expressing yourself in it.
I am challenged to let my gift become my duty, to let my uniqueness be a director and a revelation of the love of God in the world.
Across culture and across language, a young woman called us to action—to unite in being different, to break the mold and move forward like the beautiful and powerful people of God. Her words settled into my bones, and I felt chills reverberate across my skin. Many months later, I’m still reflecting on the power in her words.
Her name is Tsakani Chambo, and I am changed by what she spoke, thousands of miles away from where I was born. I am challenged to let my gift become my duty, to let my uniqueness be a director and a revelation of the love of God in the world, fanning it into flame. I hope you feel inspired to do the same.
The world can seem so hard to fit into, but as Tsakani reveals to us, it’s really not so hard when the only mold that’s necessary is the one you’ve created. Thank you, Tsakani, for these words. You are the church. You are the flow of justice for which Amos cried out. You have spoken truth. And we are listening.
Tsakani’s spoken-word offering is available on YouTube, and I invite you to watch the powerful, three-minute video. There’s a transcript below in case you want to follow along. May Tsakani’s words speak across culture and time to connect you to your better self. The youth of Africa are holding hands and being mavericks together. I invite anyone who feels ready to grab a hand too.
As much as we love the sensation of belonging,
A part of us will always be mesmerized with the idea of being
unique. But uniqueness
Turns out to be a weakness
As it costs you your position in the clique.
Birds of the same feather
So exchange our feathers
with theirs to attain the acceptance to which our hearts are tethered.
But who knew that the bird was a chameleon in disguise,
Was simply despised,
Though he was seen as high and mighty in everyone’s eyes?
We hate them.
Yet we want to be them.
We desire to be known by all as the most precious gem.
Shape shifters are lurking all around.
The embodiment of who we really are was put six feet under ages ago,
And we never want that corpse be found,
As digging up the truth will lead to the revelation
That that form of transformation
Is nothing but rotten and mundane.
We’ve taken on so many personalities that we make the schizophrenic seem sane.
The irony that comes along with cliques is much too humorous
For me to keep a straight face.
Your acceptance means someone else’s rejection
And leads them to come to the conclusion
That they are nothing but a disgrace.
They get shunned because they stepped one inch out of line, and that isn’t allowed.
You can try to beat and iron that shirt
But it will never get straightened out
The wrinkles are full with blood, sweat, and tears.
All that hard work is for naught
As you get haunted by your fears.
Your fear that as you walk down the hallway, they’ll notice
That tiny pimple on your chin or your freakishly large height
You try to convince yourself that every time they laugh, it isn’t at you
But you never succeed to do so
Even if you use all your might.
You’re terrified at the prospect at being yourself
Because if the real you got rejected, it would confirm your suspicion of inadequacy.
At least the sooner you got rejected, you could blame it on the mask
And form a new one that satisfied all that they wanted to see.
You are not inadequate.
You are enough.
You are enough.
YOU ARE ENOUGH!
We’re all looking, but we’re not seeing
Can’t you see?
Can’t we all see that we’re beautiful beings?
You were fearfully and wonderfully made by the Almighty.
Don’t insult his handiwork by trading your true self for another identity.
Trust me when I say it’s unsightly.
Throw away that old, wrinkly shirt.
Exchange it for that corpse that you so long ago put in the dirt.
Don’t change yourself, but instead better yourself
Strive to be the best you that you can be.
The real you shouldn’t be a relic on a shelf.
Don’t try to fit the mold.
Create your own.
As you wander down the many pathways
That make up the intricate maze
That is you, you’ll find out how much you’ve grown
Because you didn’t trample those wildflowers that grew through the cement.
You chose to embrace all your emotions, even if it meant
That, for a few moments, your heart would have to be bent.
Stray from what they claim to be “the norm,”
And forget all about the negative ratings.
In a world of black and white stripes
Be the red stripe running down the middle of the painting.
Be a maverick.