Jaz Villanueva: “Wait, wait. Hold up. So you’re telling me that you don’t celebrate Christmas, you don’t celebrate Halloween, you don’t celebrate Valentine’s, and you don’t celebrate Easter? Uh, dude, do you even celebrate your own birthday?”
That is just one example of what I get all the time, from friends and classmates, for as long as I can remember. A lot of people find it strange that I’m a teenager who doesn’t drink, or go to wild parties, or go to prom. Some of them think I’m part of a cult. I get teased a lot for being too obedient, too innocent, and even inexperienced in the relationship department. So, I was nicknamed as the ‘Iglesia.’
Okay, maybe all of these sound petty, but at this stage of life, being accepted by your peers is kind of a big deal. So, if you’re like me and there are times where you feel isolated, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re supposed to feel like that. Because we are just tourists here on earth. You know, just passing through. So, as a tourist who’s been walking along with a tour group and following the tour guide, I’ve come up with a few tips on How to Thrive as an ‘Iglesia’ During our Short Journey Here On Earth:
Tip #1: Get used to stereotypes.
Remember all those stereotypes I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s pretty common for Christian youth to be labeled the same way. And the fact that I experienced these just proves that I really am a member of the Church Of Christ. So, to all those people who nicknamed me ‘Iglesia,’ thank you! Because that’s exactly who I’ll be for the rest of my life.
Tip #2: Beware of shiny things.
Now, on our little tour here on earth, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled, because it can be pretty dangerous. Everywhere you look, there’s lots of shiny things. Once, I found myself chasing one of those really bright shiny things called “social media.”
Jaz: Oh, it’s beeping. Hold on let me just…sorry, I just have to check. Oh cool! My new post got 57 new likes. Ahh, that was nice! But hmm…I don’t know, 58 sounds nicer. You know what, I’ll just give it some time. Yeah.
Jaz: Sheesh! I got 120 already? Oof, I can’t believe 120 people actually like me. As embarrassing and humiliating as it is to admit. Yup! I was like that before. I got caught in that narcissistic cycle of craving for attention, then getting it, but then wanting more… and more, and more.
And every single time it happened, guess what I felt? Empty. I felt empty. Then I realized how narcissistic I was and how self-centered I was. And I realized that that attention right there was not meant to last. Shiny things are not meant to last. So, instead of trying so hard to please social media followers, I’d rather do things that please God. And that makes me feel not empty but complete.
Tip # 3: Be the ones that shine
Now, let’s be real. As tourists in this dark place, we stand out. It’s our light that makes us stand out. But I don’t want my glow to come from the same source as those shiny things at the side like fame, wealth, and status. Not that there’s anything wrong with them but they do have expiration dates.
Our light glows every time we do the right thing and live up to what it truly means to be an ‘Iglesia.’ So, yes, I don’t drink, or party wild, or date while I’m still under 18. They’re correct! I’m too innocent, too obedient, and too church-oriented for them.
But that is how we shine. That is how we play our role as the lights of this world. Not that we’re perfect though, but we do our best to be pure. Oh, and for the record—I do celebrate my birthday.
Fellow tourists: “How do you shine?” What is it that you do that makes you radiate amidst the darkness? You know what? Being able to shine has never been so crucial as it is today. The world has become darker and scarier than ever, and we, our generation, are the most vulnerable in getting lost.
So, fellow tourists, let’s keep radiating as bright as we can. Don’t get distracted by the shiny things and loud dings! And let’s show the rest of the world that, even at a young age, faith still speaks.