Nerds for Jesus
“For we are fools for the sake of Christ.” – I Corinthians 4
The YA fiction writer John Green redeemed nerdiness for us all. He said that a nerd is simply someone who gets excited about things, things like: the miracle of human consciousness.
I wish I’d known that 30 years ago. I was a huge nerd in junior high (“was a nerd?” my children are saying right now). It may have been my lack of Izod shirts, or my failure to produce perfectly feathered hair. But my nerd status was accelerated by my indecent enthusiasm for books, nature, and ideas. I remember even my so-called friends shutting down any exuberance unbecoming to a teenager with a practiced eye-roll and a clipped, “WhatEVer, Molly.”
Perhaps it was a kindness, trying to school me in the affectation of the bored teenager so I could fit in. What they didn’t know: is that the mask becomes the face.
Recently I was chaplain for a week at my childhood church camp, called to be present to the kids in their emotional struggles and deliver a morning message each day. Maybe they asked me because I finally figured out how to do my hair. But I think they probably asked me because I am still a nerd: a nerd for Jesus.
Which means I know Jesus to be the Great Nerd himself, because he got excited about many different kinds of things: love and justice, nature and healing, breakfast and supper. With a wink at the popular crowd, he befriended the nerds and outcasts, and was outcast himself for his unseemly associations.
I invited the kids at camp to embrace their inner nerd. For just one week, we could forget that we are supposed to keep our joie de vivre in check. We could live without worry, and adopt Jesus’ reckless enthusiasm. We could abandon the idea of a social mafia, and live by a different rule of life, one where we could befriend the kid who smelled weird, pray unironically and out loud, cry in front of each other, and be happy in spite of all the evidence.
And they did. For six days these formerly shy and/or sullen teenagers transformed into skipping, hugging, singing nerds. In passing, we greeted one another in shameless, joyful nerddom with a Nerds for Jesus tribe sign: thumbs and forefingers bent into J shape, hands crossed over the chest. I’m doing it right now.
Now you try it. So when we meet each other, we will know one another by our Nerd.
God, make me an instrument of your nerdness. Where there is boredom, let me sow glee. Where there is snark, let me sow earnestness. Where there is worldsuck, let me sow joy. Amen.