“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b
There’s a “clue in the old books.” And it’s a mysterious syndrome….
I’m talking about Nancy Drew, sleuth extraordinaire and paragon of all teenage fictional heroines.
Nancy’s stories arrived on the scene in 1930, authored by a string of ghost writers (women and men) under the pen name Carolyn Keene, eventually launching films, television shows, and computer games.
She was the female counterpart to the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift Jr., my brothers’ heroes. I read my brothers’ books, too, although I imagine neither of my brothers ever picked up one of mine. I eventually collected 56 Nancy Drew stories in the yellow-bound version, plus the Nancy Drew Cookbook and the vintage Nancy Drew board game…still have them. My daughter read the books, too.
Who was Nancy Drew? Well, she was perennially 16 or 18 years old, with no worries about college admission or a career. Her hair started out blonde but became titian (strawberry blonde) in later books. She was attractive, affluent, always had great clothes, drove a convertible (usually a gift from her dad, attorney Carson Drew), and dated a handsome frat guy named Ned Nickerson…um, all the things I never hoped to have as a teen.
She was also smart—even though she was forever getting stuck in life-threatening situations. But it was all fantasy. Imagine a police chief nowadays who consults frequently with a teenage girl for advice on solving crimes….
Somewhere along the way as I devoured Nancy’s harrowing adventures, I discovered what I call the “Nancy Drew Syndrome,” as follows:
Whatever the occasion, Nancy would rise to it. Whatever skills or talents were required to solve the mystery, Nancy had them. If she went to a ranch, she could ride a horse like an expert. If she had to solve a winter resort mystery, she could ski with ease.
If my memory serves me correctly, she also became a circus performer, a ballerina, an actress, and a pilot…all rather sizeable, impossible accomplishments. All while solving mysteries. She could do anything and everything.*
I so wanted to be Nancy Drew. I already had the name (and middle initial D) to get started. I even considered a career in the CIA at one point…I eventually decided that working at a Washington desk was not my cup of tea.
Still, the Nancy Drew Syndrome persisted. I learned how to ride horses over jumps. I learned how to ski down black-diamond slopes and drive a boat. I didn’t get as far as acting, ballet, or becoming a pilot (my son fulfilled that last one for me). But I did try my hand at a whole bunch of other experiences.
I became, and continue to be, a jack of all trades and master of none. But maybe reading Nancy Drew was a good thing…because before there was Nancy, there was the apostle Paul.
Paul found himself traveling beyond the Jews of Israel to the Gentiles abroad, called to carry the gospel message to parts unknown. As he spoke to cultures vastly different from his own, he learned to become relational in order to reach them with the good news. He became all things to all people.
He became a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. He embraced his Jewishness among Jews. He became like someone under the law to those who were bound by it, lived free for those not under the law, and weakened himself for the sake of the weak.
Why? Because he had an extraordinary mission from Jesus Christ, to spread His gospel to those who would be saved by hearing it. Paul eagerly desired to enter their worlds and share in their blessings. He never changed the truth…he just brought it to people in a winsome way.
As Nancy Drew, I’m a complete failure. But thank goodness for the true stories from Paul in the Bible. Like Paul, I can strive to be “all things to all people” in order to effectively share the message of the incredible hope of heaven in Jesus Christ.
When I speak with others, I can look for common ground in our situations, even if they are vastly different. I can try very hard to “speak their language,” to lead them to the open arms of Jesus. When I don’t succeed, I can remember I am weak, so that I may relate to others in their weaknesses.
You have the same opportunities—you’ve been given life experiences, skills, and insights that may open doors unexpectedly. Is there a harrowing adventure in your past? Use your story to show others how Jesus has brought you through it and how He can help them, too.
This week, look for clues that will help you shine Christ’s light into the darkness. Maybe you’ll even solve a mystery or two.
Jesus, You are the Light of the World. Help us let go of our prejudices, external trappings, and selfish whims in order to relate to others in their worlds. Give us the gifts of Your Holy Spirit, that we may use Your love, joy, and peace to win others to Your kingdom. In Your blessed name we pray, Amen.
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© Copyright 2021 Nancy C. Williams, Lightbourne Creative (text and photography)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
*To be fair, Tom Swift Jr. was no different. He was a teen prodigy designing and flying spaceships….