I have been inundated with school here lately. It began last week when I was taken back to my past… when I remembered who I was and how I felt so long ago. And so, I wrote about it late Wednesday night. And then, I was there. Whereas earlier in the week, the roaming of halls took place only in my mind, it was Thursday and Friday that my size nines actually made contact with real cement and real tile and real hallways. I was physically there… within the walls of where my insecurity first took root. See, there was a field trip and Dare Day, and I didn’t want to miss a thing. But… a funny thing happened. It was in going to face my present (outings with my son), that I ran straight into my past. And the new me was confused when confronted by the old me that showed up through a connection with old acquaintances.
You know, I’m figuring out that the very things I face at forty are the same things I faced as a young girl. Although shaded differently, they’re the same circumstances nonetheless. And I believe there’s a part of the old me that God wants me to meet head-on. Because somehow, I’ve carried that part of me deep inside all these years. And I am just now fully realizing how deeply ingrained it is. And it took coming face to face with some old friends for me to see it. See, I was so surprised at how I felt last week… so shocked at my uncomfortable feelings. And the truth is… I felt plain scared. And worried. The truth is… I cared about what someone else would think about me. And so, the truth is… I have not changed one bit from when I was young and wished desperately to fit in. The truth is, I still care way too much about what people think about me. And that should not be so for a child of God.
It was my last couple of years in high school that I went through some drastic changes. I didn’t know who I was, and so, I tried out another group to see if I fit. And because that group was a bit odd, it didn’t really matter who I was with them. Because they didn’t seem to care about status or popularity or clothing. They were the artists, the intellects, the deep thinkers, the musicians… you know, the unusual crowd. And so, I tried to find my place among them when I was seventeen or so. Eventually, I left town at nineteen (trying out another group – the United States Air Force), to see if I fit in there. It was my last year in the service that I met my husband, and it was through Him that I met the Lord. Because of my husband, I finally found my true fit. But it was last week that I found out the truth about me… and about my true fit. And what I realized is that if I’m not careful, I can be no different than the elite cliques I encountered in high school. Here’s what happened…
I saw a girl who looked familiar. She has beautiful eyes and a pretty smile, and although I had seen her several times before this past year, it was only last week that I decided to take a closer look. And sure enough, I knew her. Not well… just an acquaintance… but enough so that I felt the urge to speak to her. But I was hesitant… I held back. Because, well, she looks nothing like me. She is covered with tattoos from head to toe. And she dresses completely different than I do. But alas, I plunged ahead and spoke to her anyway. And it was nice. However, she remembers me… the old me. And the truth is, she doesn’t really know the new me. And so, as we stood there talking, I was thinking, “How do I do this?” I wondered why it should be so hard to talk to someone I once had a link to. But I knew. I knew it’s because I am different than who I once was. And I didn’t want someone to see the new me talking to someone that knew the old me. I didn’t want someone to think that I was still the same. And the ugly part of that is, I was judging someone based on appearance. And the really ugly part of that is, I thought that someone would judge me and who I was with because I have felt compelled to do the same. How quick I have been to form opinions of those I encounter simply by the clothes they wear or the placement of a piercing.
It was Friday morning that I ran into yet another old friend. And this one, too, has some tattoos and piercings and looks slightly different than my current fit. And then up walks the other acquaintance who is covered with tattoos, and there we stood having a conversation. Please don’t misunderstand me… I am not saying there’s anything wrong with tattoos. I have a small one myself… it’s just that, well, frankly, I tend to hang out with people who look similar to me. And so, I was very aware of how I looked (denim capris and mom top with Teva flip-flops), alongside two very alternative looking women. Honestly, they looked cool with their hair swept back in scarves and bandanas, and I looked so plain in comparison. And that’s when it happened… a woman from my church walked by. And I cringed inside. I worried about what she was thinking. I wondered what she thought about me speaking with two women who look so different from myself… and from her. And today, well, I am ashamed at that line of thinking. Because it’s today that I realize… I’m part of a clique, right? If I am so concerned that I should not stray away from the ones who look just like me then I am just like the ones from my high school days, right? You know, the ones who belonged to the elite group. The ones who didn’t allow just anyone in. The ones who believed themselves to be perfect… and that everyone else was so far beneath them. That’s me, right? And so, I am astounded at this newfound knowledge. I have become what I so longed to be a part of, and yet, I so disdained in high school. I have become rigid in my thinking. And so, I just have to ask myself, “What would Jesus do?”
After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32
Jesus would have dined with those who didn’t look like Him. He would have had conversations with those that didn’t quite fit in. And more importantly, Jesus wouldn’t have cared to fit in with the in-crowd. See, the popular ones of His day were the scribes and the Pharisees. They were the cool kids (so to speak), and they called the shots. They did things to get noticed and took seats in high places. And don’t even think about trying to sit with them at their table. If you managed to get close enough, they probably would sentenced you to stoning before even knowing your name. Because, well, you just wouldn’t have cut it. Because you wouldn’t have fit into their mold. Condemnation, and not mercy, was the rule of their day.
And so, the answer is… Jesus simply wouldn’t have fit in. And He didn’t. And He stood out because of it. And as for me? Well, I’m working on that. Perhaps in the near future, I won’t fit in either. And perhaps I’ll finally just not care what other people think. Because the truth is, if you’re simply trying to appease everyone else… and if you’re trying really hard to fit in… well, there’s a very good chance that you’re not pleasing God. And as far is fitting in… well, His opinion is the only one that matters. The question to ask is, do you fit in with Him?
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10