The YA fiction writer John Green redeemed nerdiness for us all. He said that a nerd is simply someone who gets excited about things.
I wish I’d known that 30 years ago. I was a huge nerd in junior high. 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.”
We are fools for the sake of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 4:10a (NRSV)
Recently I was chaplain for a week at my childhood church camp, called to be present to the kids 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.
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 adopt Jesus’ reckless enthusiasm. We could pray unironically and out loud, cry in front of each other, and be happy despite 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
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Molly Baskette is the lead pastor of First Church Berkeley UCC and the author of books about church renewal, parenting, spiritual growth and more.