Think of a time when someone pigeon-holed you. When have you felt typecast, stereotyped? How did it make you feel?
These are labels that essentially represent the same idea. We tend to keep people in a place where we think they fit. We don’t like it when they break out of the categories we’ve established for them. We’re comfortable in our perceptions so long as they’re not challenged or required to change.
Too often, we express too much surprise when someone acts differently than what we expect. We’re skeptical of the differences in the friend that we haven’t seen in a long time. We do it, but we hate it when it’s done to us.
We all want permission to grow, to change, to follow a new path. Perhaps it’s been withheld from us. And perhaps we withhold it from others.
Consider how Jesus got pigeon-holed. He hadn’t always been the good teacher we think of. He hadn’t spent most of his life teaching people how to be good to one another. He only began that life at around thirty years of age. Prior to that, the family business was carpentry. He was probably a pretty good carpenter. But he traded a hammer and saw for a footpath between towns, an occasional rock to stand on or a place to preach from.
Not a bad thing. Lots of people change careers, make decisions that alter the course of their lives, and set out on a new path. Maybe you’ve done the same.
But despite the fact that Jesus was an unparalleled teacher filled with wisdom and insight, his change of career wasn’t met with enthusiasm by everyone—especially not by those who knew him best.
Think about that for a moment. Jesus’s hometown people, the friends he grew up with, were some of the most skeptical of his new career. Once he returned to his childhood stomping grounds, he nearly had the joy stomped out of his preaching.
They were surprised at the power and wisdom of his words, until they remembered who he was. They still thought of him as the carpenter’s son. And no carpenter’s son from around these parts should rise above his station. He used to make their chairs and tables and now he thought he could be a preacher?! Who does he think he is?
Sometimes we make changes because, well, let’s be honest, because we have to. We make changes because the path we have been on is the wrong one. We’ve made bad decisions and hurt some people, including ourselves. Other times we simply find a new passion, a new direction, or a new opportunity, and so we press forward taking hope and energy from the path before us.
But our changes don’t always bring the same excitement to those around us. Sometimes we are held back by those who knew us before. We’re stifled by the limits they place on us.
Leaving our past behind sounds nice and natural, the way things are supposed to go. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. It’s hard enough for us to move past our own histories. But when other people seem to trap us in the past, that can deflate our sails no matter how full they may have been.
We’re all looking to be better. To be the best versions of ourselves. To take the ragged edges of the path behind us and stretch them into a path forward that’s wide and straight and smooth.
Jesus understands. Some people made fun of him because they only thought of him as the “Jesus from before, the carpenter.” If you’ve ever been frustrated or saddened because people keep you in the same place, Jesus knows what that’s like. But he will never tell you that you can’t be something more. He wants more for you; he’ll not only encourage you on your path, he’ll walk with you.