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I'm Not Cool 

I was never the "cool" kid growing up. I had a good group of friends to hang out with, but part of me always wondered what it would be like to be part of the cool crowd. Maybe I thought life would be better. More people would know me. More people would like me. And I wouldn’t have to sit at home on Friday night wishing the phone would ring. But instead of being on the cutting edge, I was usually the guy just on the back side of the latest trend.

What is "cool" anyway? Our culture is constantly redefining cool, making it a moving target at best. With television, magazines and mall windows hitting kids from every angle, it’s hard to escape the images and pressure, even if teens belong to the strongest youth group in the country.

Not long ago, after a concert, I met a young girl struggling to fit in with her peers. She was in tears as she shared her story of feeling like an outcast and all alone. Hearing that God loved her unconditionally—whether she was cool or not—almost seemed too good to be true. We hugged, prayed and went our separate ways. I couldn’t help but wonder how many kids feel the same way, but don’t share that burden with anyone.

On another occasion I received a letter from a mother who had heard my song "I’m Not Cool" on the radio. As I read her letter, I felt tears welling up in my eyes, once again amazed and privileged to be witnessing God at work:

"My son has been having a hard time dealing with the ’cool crowd’ at school," she wrote. "They constantly tease him because he doesn’t dress in the style they choose. My husband and I have been so worried about him as he has become withdrawn and depressed. But that all changed after he heard you on the radio talking about those kinds of issues. He has a completely different attitude now. He’s learned that the ’cool crowd’ isn’t something he wants to be a part of. He has learned to be proud of his Christianity. Thank you for giving my son inspiration … and for helping him find his smile again."

The need is real and it’s everywhere. I’ve seen it in kids who have faithfully attended youth groups for years, as well as in people who have never set foot in church. May the Lord grant us eyes to see the lonely, the depressed, the uncool. May He grant us the sight to see those who are reaching out, even if they are masters at covering up their need. May we be the ones to reach out and love young people who feel unloved. May we share the freedom we have in Christ to be ourselves—and let teens know that God loves them as they are.

We all long to feel loved and accepted. The question is, where do we find that love and acceptance? Many of the teens in your church—perhaps even in your home—are looking for it in peer groups that may or may not be walking the narrow path. You can redirect their search, pointing them to the God who loves them regardless of what clique they’re in, what style of clothes they wear, what kind of car they drive or if they’re considered cool. Each of us is a precious, special, unique gift of God, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image (Psalm 139:14).

I realize a little more each year that I may never be cool. But each year it seems to matter less and less. As I encourage people in the song, "He says that I am one of a kind and I don’t have to try to be somebody else/He believes in me and says I’m free to be myself!"

Published September 2001