When I was growing up, all young people wanted to be "different," so quotes from Walden proliferated among them, even though they did not apply at all. As I looked around me and actually considered what was happening, it dawned on me that they didn't really want to be different. They just didn't want rules or even societal expectations. They wanted to be different from their parents. But every single one of them wanted that in exactly the same way, and they all wanted to be just like each other.
When it came right down to it, I was one of the "different" ones. I wore my skirts to my knees, no strapless or spaghetti straps, nor deep vee necks or backs, no short shorts, no bikinis. I never swore, never smoked, drank, or used drugs. And they all knew it. But because I was not like them, I was an outcast. So much for appreciating individuality. They were as much hypocrites as they claimed their parents were.
Now think a minute about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Those boys were probably the same age as our children who struggle with wanting to be like all their friends—late middle school to early high school. Not only were they different, they reveled in it. They forced the issue with their insistence on different foods.
Just to clear up a few misconceptions, vegetarianism was not required by the Law. In fact, to be a good Jew, you had to be a meat-eater. The Passover meal and all the sacrifices required eating of the sacrificed animal as part of the worship. So why did these boys insist on vegetables only? It might have been that the meats they were given were sacrificed to idols. Part of their training was probably in the Babylonian religion. Maybe that is why they refused the meats. But understand this, eating any meal prepared by Gentile hands in a Gentile country was unclean, even if it was not sacrificed to idols.
So maybe this is the point: they were trying to show that they were different from the other young men who had been carried away from other cultures. They wanted to be seen as different. And before long, their God-enhanced abilities made the differences even more obvious. God himself made sure they were seen as different! And they didn't mind one bit.
So here is my question for you: Are you teaching your children not only to be different, but to want to be different? Do they want to stand out from the world or do they want to disappear into the crowd, eventually being swallowed up by the same desires and goals as the rest, living the same lifestyle, blending in, being, in the words of the Star Trek franchise, "assimilated?"
When I graduated from high school, my junior English/senior Writing teacher gave me a poster with this quote from Walden: If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. I did not realize its significance at first, but my mother did. "She knows you are not like all the rest," she told me, "and she respects that."
Why aren't we teaching our children, not to march in step with all their friends, but to listen for that distant, and different, drummer, and keep pace with Him. Why aren't they as determined to do so as those three teenagers from Judah who sat in Nebuchadnezzar's court. Perhaps, parents, we need to take them on a "visit", not to Walden Pond, but to Nazareth, Gethsemane, and Golgotha. Maybe then, they would understand what it is really like to be "different." Maybe we would, too.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1Pet 2:21)