Labels

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We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12

I stuck this hot pink sticky note to my computer yesterday afternoon. It says Labels and they’re what I use when working from home. Several days ago I used my last and if I don’t write myself a reminder, I won’t remember to pick up new.

And that’s it, basically. I need new labels. Tonight, though, I can’t help but smile as I see that word penned by my own hand…

Labels.

Because it’s not just the 1/3 Cut Avery filing labels I’m in need of. No, there’s another kind of label that’s stuck to me most of my life. Every bit as much as that pink note is stuck to my computer. And in truth, it’s the other type of label that needs my full attention today.

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la·bel (noun): a classifying phrase or name applied to a person or thing, especially one that is inaccurate or restrictive.  

synonyms: designation, description, tag; name, epithet, nickname, title, sobriquet, pet name, cognomen

la·bel (verb): assign to a category, especially inaccurately or restrictively.

synonyms: categorize, classify, class, describe, designate, identify; mark, stamp, brand, condemn, pigeonhole, stereotype, typecast; call, name, term, dub, nickname

I can tell you the first time I felt labeled. And though I don’t remember my age, I know I was young. It happened when I was with my dad.

See, occasionally Daddy, who was a house painter, had to take my brother and me with him to work. And the house we frequented the most was a brick plantation home within view of our small apartment. And a lot of those memories are good…

Like the heat of the morning sun as it warmed the top of my head. And the excitement that bubbled its way to the surface despite my being painfully shy. And the sound of our feet on the pavement as we padded across the highway.

We’d follow Daddy down the road, along the gravel driveway, and to the sidewalk where the smell of boxwoods threatened to overtake us. And I delighted as a hundred kitties (or so it seemed) swirled through my legs, hindering my progress to the door. Inside the home, my eyes had to adjust to the cool darkness that enveloped the kitchen.

And me.

Onward we’d trudge, following Daddy to where he’d station himself for the day. Likely this is where he’d issue his instructions. Stay out of sight, stay out of the way, and be quiet. But once he began painting, my brother and I were left to our own devices. Free to roam the property and play (as quietly as we possibly could).

Yes, it was on one such occasion I first felt the pang of being labeled. Indeed, I felt classified there…

It happened in the brick plantation home I could see from the yard in which I played.

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Let me tell you what I know about kids. I don’t care how quiet you tell them to be, there’s sure to be noise. And I don’t care how large the house, they’re sure to be seen. Mine are. And so were we. My brother and I were spotted more than once.

I remember someone asked the lady of the manor, “Who are those kids running around?” Her response, “Oh, they’re just the painter’s children.” Now, to be fair, there’s a chance she didn’t use the word just. As I said, I was young and the years may have clouded part of my memory.

However, that’s how I heard it. I was “just.” Or “only.” Not esteemed enough for an introduction or to be called by name. Simply, I was the painter’s daughter. And in her eyes, and perhaps mine, Daddy was the hired help.

And that’s when the first label stuck. And though the word wasn’t spoken, it felt as if the word “insignificant” were attached to me. Just as securely as that hot pink sticky is affixed to my computer, that faulty label secured itself to my lowly self-image.

Yes, in that large house for perhaps the first time, I felt unimportant and inferior. Deemed less than by the world’s measurement system. My name not even worth mentioning…

For I’d been labeled the painter’s daughter.

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As I grew, other labels were slapped on. People’s careless remarks attached themselves to me causing me to value myself less and less.

“Jennifer can pick that up but you can’t.” I was deemed weak. “Just because your two best friends are popular doesn’t mean you are.” I was designated as tolerated. “Your hair is so boring. Just do something with it!” I was classified as dull and uninteresting. “That was stupid, why’d you say that?” I was identified as stupid. “I can read you like a pamphlet.” The meaning clear… I was shallow.

Oh, and this one was particularly good. It was during mail call while I was in basic training for the Air Force. The TI called out, “Peyton!” Then repeated, “Peyton? Do we even have a Peyton in here?”

Yes, I was there. But true to form, I faded into the background. And another label was added… faceless.

Maybe Daddy’s instructions to me as a small child were just that good. For he said, “Stay out of sight, stay out of the way, and be quiet.” And for many years, that’s what I tried to do.

But as for you, do you seek great things for yourself? Stop seeking! Jeremiah 45:5

I was a wallflower most of my young life. It came natural to me. That’s because I inherited a few things from my Daddy. See, by nature, he’s quiet and reclusive. Oh, people would have classified him as the life of the party in his younger days. And that’s what I would have said, too.

However, I know the truth now. I know he’s really quiet and shy. And I get that from him.

Eventually, though, the young woman I became no longer wanted to be quiet and shy. No more did I want to stay out of sight. Instead, I sought visibility. I craved significance. Likely because it’s what I never had. Or it felt like I didn’t. And it’s what I highly esteemed.

Alas, the spotlight seemed to be reserved for the people I gravitated toward. They were loud and funny and popular. The center of attention. And I wanted all this for myself. Yes, these were the labels I coveted and set out to acquire…

Labels like witty, funny, important, sought-after, significant, deep. Or how about known. Just to have my name out there. Worthy enough to be mentioned in leading circles.

Shamefully, I made this my aim. Seeking value and renown. Even into my early forties, I found myself trying to be someone I’m really not. Always striving to be more than me. More than who God created me to be. Hoping new labels would cover up the old ones I didn’t like. The ones that seemed to stick to me no matter how hard I tried to peel them off…

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity];
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

“Because you are precious in My sight,
You are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in return for you and other peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1,4

I’ve read the above Scripture multiple times in my life. And it’s weighty. Powerful. And on more than one occasion, I knew God was speaking this message directly over me. But it never took. The labels I find within these verses just wouldn’t stick with me. Or to me. Likely because the old ones were too gummy. Unlike the hot pink sticky note on my computer, the old labels wouldn’t peel off easily.

Not till now, they didn’t. Not till last week.

Because for the very first time, I think I understand what that word redeemed means. In all my years as a Christian, it finally rings true. And I can say it and mean what I say…

I am redeemed.

Yes, God has redeemed me. The thing is, I never fully realized my need for redemption until recently. Only when I comprehended I was held captive… a slave to the world’s value system. All my life, really.

That’s because culture’s line of measurement was deeply ingrained within me. Going all the way back to the little girl I was who overheard a manor woman speak about her. And perhaps I placed too much importance on her casual remark. In all likelihood, she didn’t mean a thing by what she said. I’m sure I just took it that way.

The point is, it stuck. And layers of labels were added. I let them all stick to me. And each one chipped away at my sense of value. My self-worth.

Finally, though, God’s words sank in. Finally, I believed what He was telling me. I believed Him when He said He calls me by name. I believed Him when He told me I’m His. I believed I’m precious in His sight. And that I’m honored and loved.

The biggest miracle, though, is those old labels finally came loose. Peeled right off last week as I made room for the new ones I received.

New labels were affixed identifying me as redeemed, called, named, His, precious, seen, honored, and loved.

These are the labels I was in desperate need of. So much more than I need a box of Avery labels for new files…

And now, because I finally believed what God said, I know my true worth. I know how significant I am to Him. I am oh, so valuable. I know because He tells me through His holy word. Through the prophet Isaiah.

For He said He’d give men for my life. And He did. He gave One man in exchange for mine. It was His own precious Son…

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ… 1 Peter 1:18-19

That word redeemed means to ransom. And today I’m beginning to comprehend just how much God paid for me. For Jesus’ valuable, costly, honored, esteemed, beloved blood purchased me. That’s how valued I am. That’s how much I’m worth…

To God.

But not to the world. No, the world has another type of measurement system. And in truth, the world cannot comprehend what holds real value. The world can’t and those enslaved by it can’t.

For Isaiah 53:3 says the world despised and rejected Jesus. The world turned from him. Its people did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him. And as to His value, Judas betrayed him for only 30 pieces of silver… valued at the cost of a slave (Zechariah 11:12-13).

But God knew Jesus’ true value. And for those of us who have been redeemed from the world’s value system, we know, too. And because we understand His true worth, we can begin to comprehend our own.

Honor [esteem, value as precious] your father and mother… Ephesians 6:2

There’s this proverb (20:20) that says “whoever curses his father or mother, his lamp [of life] will be extinguished in time of darkness.” The definition for “curses” is to treat lightly, to regard as insignificant.

And I realize this is the sin of my young life. It happened when I adopted the world’s value system. In essence, I cursed my father in that I didn’t think I was enough. I always wished I’d been more than I was.

Because I’d been deemed a house painter’s daughter.

No formal education. No degree to my name. No real career path. But now I know that’s the world talking. Culture’s measurement system at it’s best. Not God’s estimation of me. Or my dad…

And so today, for Daddy’s recent birthday, my wish is to pay him honor. Like in Ephesians 6:2 above, I want him to know he is esteemed and precious and valued in not just God’s sight, but my own.

And because Exodus 20:12 commands me to honor my father, I want him to know the definition for that word. It means to be heavy, weighty. I read that as significance. I want Daddy to know he is just that. Significant…

To God.

But also to me, a house painter’s daughter.

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Show proper respect to everyone… 1 Peter 2:17

God ties everything together. Like with that word respect in the above verse. It means to estimate, fix the value, honour. It comes from a word meaning to prize. And I believe God did something for me and for my dad a couple of years ago with regard to this definition…

He showed me just how clearly He saw me as a little girl in that brick plantation home. And just how clearly He saw my dad as he painted all those years around this county of ours.

See, there was a benefit for the local food pantry. It was to be held at an estate in which my father spent several years painting. Turns out the owner of the property was a local man who left for some years and returned later on. His wish was for local people to attend the dinner…

And I never would have thought to attend only, he mentioned my father by name. In the newspaper. He personified the above verse by showing respect to my dad, and a few other tradesmen, by mentioning how their great skill aided in the beauty of his home. And that act alone seemed to be a direct invitation from God.

So I went. I had the opportunity to meet this gentleman and told him who I was. I said, “Hi, I’m George Peyton’s daughter.”

And his eyes lit up as he spoke of my dad. And my eyes lit up, too. Thankful for what he said. And thankful that God knew I needed to hear it.

Because see, he most definitely is not “just the painter.” He has a name and he is significant in the eyes of His Redeemer. Oh, Daddy is precious in His sight. Honored and loved.

And not just by God.

All this holds true for me, too. His daughter…

My name is Pam.

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In closing, if Daddy is anything like me, he may have acquired a few labels over the years. I want him to know the old ones are just like hot pink sticky notes. Really, they peel right off.

And the new labels can be stuck right on…

Riding Coattails

I watched the story of Johnny Cash recently. Walk the Line. And I was mesmerized by a conversation between Johnny (nick-named JR) and his brother, Jack, when they were children:

“Jack”

“Um-hmm?”

“How come you’re so good?”

“I ain’t”

“You pick 5 times more than me.”

“Well, I’m bigger than you.”

“You know every story in Scripture.”

“You know every song in Mama’s hymnal.”

“Songs are easy.”

“Not for me.”

“There’s more words in the Bible than Heavenly Highway Hymns.”

“Look, JR. If I’m going to be a preacher one day, I gotta know the Bible front to back. I mean, you can’t help nobody if you can’t tell em the right story.”

It was that line right there… “you can’t help nobody if you can’t tell em the right story.” And of course, that led me to thinking of my own story and what Jack said. About one being helpful. See, supposing my story is shallow… would it be worth telling anyway? Just suppose the biggest hurdle I’ve had to clear in life is simply myself. That being the case, would it even be worth the breath required to utter the tale? Because in light of the very real struggles, tragedies and pain so many undergo, my minor upheavals in life seem inconsequential. Trivial and small. So then, does my story have any redeeming value? Could it possibly be helpful? And so again, I ponder, is it worth the telling…

Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; Isaiah 51:1

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Look at that little girl. Oh, I can recall how she felt all too well. Awkward. Shy. A wall-flower that blended into the background. I was scared of my own shadow. And I just knew everyone was talking about me. Negatively, of course. And why wouldn’t they be. My clothing was usually second-hand. My home was the back-side of a store. My front yard? Mainly a cow-pasture while the back consisted of a parking lot complete with gas pumps. The grey pavement of highway stretching out beyond. This was my playground. I ran free through the fields like a wild thing. But when forced to interact with civilization, I turned inside myself.

Early on, I developed an inferiority complex. I just didn’t think I measured up. Materially, physically, or intellectually. Through the duration of my youth and early adulthood, I felt minimal. Small. And forever second best. It seemed as if I were destined to stand in the shadows cast by the bright light of my friends. Perhaps those substandard feelings I housed went all the way back to my infancy…  

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See, Mom tells of a time I slipped through the crack of the bed and the wall. Maybe it was the very bed in the photo above. I was laying there as she walked down to the mailbox. However upon her return, she found I was crying out… trapped between bed and wall. And my infant cousin? He was being bounced upon my grandma’s lap. Oh, an aunt was there trying to get me out. But just maybe it started there. The root of insignificance birthed when I literally slipped through the crack unnoticed by the one I wanted to notice me. And ultimately, that fear has chased me my whole life. Scared I’d slip through the cracks unnoticed. And those that mattered the most caring the least. In essence, me mattering naught.

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I wanted to be noticed. And so, early on it was the material that mattered to me. The tangible. The outer. In my eyes, things would make me special and image was of utmost importance. Like in the photo above. I was pleased and it’s obvious. For I felt pretty here. Can’t you see it on my face? Mama (that’s what I called her then) had fixed my hair. And because I liked the way my hair looked, I liked me. If only for a day. As I said, image mattered. And in truth, I thought clothing would fix me right up. If I just had nicer clothes. New clothes. And perhaps a new coat?

And therein lies my foundation. I was a little girl who felt ugly most of the time. And small. Plain and dumb. And unimportant. And what happens when this type of foundation gets laid, is a girl begins to ride coattails without even knowing that’s what she’s doing. Like me. See, my thoughts just weren’t that important. So I began to absorb my friends’ thoughts. Their mindsets became my mindset. And what they liked was better than what I liked. And what they wore was better than what I wore. And so, I tried to be like them. Before I knew it, I didn’t have an original thought. Or idea. Or opinion. And while they stood in the spotlight, I hid in the shadows. Trying my best to be just like them. Living vicariously through them.

And when a girl feels less than, if she discovers there’s something she’s actually good at, she clings to it. She tries to excel in the one thing that makes her feel the tiniest bit special. And she begins to crave the words of affirmation it can bring her. This one area is where she finds her value. And she feasts on the praise it brings her way.

Naturally, I became one who strives. I’d say since the fourth grade. I think that’s when I decided deep down that I wanted to be the best. The greatest. I know for certain that’s when I wanted to be famous because of a little notebook I saved all these years. My name scribbled all over it where I practiced my autograph. That little lime green memo pad is quite telling in that it’s also filled with pictures of women drawn by me. Complete with notes and poems of what I wanted to look like when I was all grown up.

And these were my beginnings. Like I said, my story is shallow. For I was shallow. Because image ruled and appearances mattered the most. The outside was all I cared about. And so, I became an adult. At least that’s what my age indicated. And because I had no ambition of my own other than to be pretty, to be known, and to be liked, I ended up doing what my friend’s mother suggested we do. I joined the U.S. Air Force. And I was excited. Hopeful even. For I thought in leaving my hometown behind, I’d leave the little girl I was behind, too. I thought in leaving, I’d actually become someone new. And exciting. And worthwhile. Maybe for once, I’d be able to grab a little light of my own… And so I tied on my Air Force Blue Raincoat and hoped for the best.

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But as for you, do you seek great things for yourself? Stop seeking! Jeremiah 45:5

At nineteen, I left home. And in four short years, I made some of the biggest mistakes of my life. I tried to be everything I thought I always wanted to be. I thought I’d be happy. I shed riding others’ coattails in favor of trying on my own coat. And while donning my new attire, I worked at being pretty. I tried my best to be likeable. And popular. And fun. It was exhausting. And truth is, trying to have a coat of my own led to my demise. Because I’ll tell you, if a young woman sets out to get known, she will be noticed. And when she hears someone call out her name followed by “You’re famous!” Well, that’s really not such a good thing. Oh, I at last found myself in the spotlight I always sought. It’s just that once I was there, I found it wasn’t such a nice place to be after all. And ironically, once I was there, I really just wanted to be elsewhere. I wanted to be seen in a different light.

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Today, I think about JR and Jack and their conversation about stories. You know, had Jack lived and I ran into him, I think he would have used the story of Joseph with me. That’s because of his coat of many colors. See, I think it’s quite possible that Joseph wanted to be the best, too. See, he was one of the youngest and I think he wanted to prove himself to his big brothers. For whenever he had a God given dream, he’d tell it. And he was a tattle-tale, eager to cast himself in a better light. And because Daddy gave him this great colorful coat, he’d wear it for everyday. Like the time he was told to go out and check on his brothers. Why, they must have seen him coming from a mile away. And they hated him for his showy coat. Because truth is, it was proof that Joseph was the favored child.

So there was Joseph with his colorful coat. But what good did it do him? In fact, his coat may have hastened his demise. Because first, he was thrown into a pit. And then, he was thrown into a prison. His outerwear couldn’t keep him from harm. Being the best in Daddy’s eyes didn’t soften his fall. But ultimately, Joseph learned a lesson. For he was humbled. And he learned how to lead. In the end, he became great. Truly great.

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

You’d think I’d learn from Joseph’s story. That his fall would serve as warning to me. Because doesn’t pride come before the fall? Like with Joseph. Well, actually, he was thrown down, but it was a fall nonetheless. But every now and then, rather than heed the caution of Joseph’s saga, I throw caution to the wind instead. Because deep, deep, deep down, I still want it. Honestly, I want glory. My glory. Deep, deep, deep down there’s a piece of that little girl inside who grew up feeling small. And she wants to feel big. Larger than life. So she constructs her tower and hopes it will reach the sky. For she wants to be the best. The greatest. At everything. And not only that, she wants everyone in sight to know she’s the best. God help me, this is the truth. Despite how far I’ve come and all I’ve learned, I still struggle with the inferiority complex.

As God’s child, this is what I’ve been cutting my teeth on. See, what I’ve strived so hard for sets me up in direct opposition to Christ. For His teaching is totally opposite of what I’ve been trying to accomplish my whole life. I find we’re at cross purposes. A war within my heart. Me wanting to be more. His wanting me to be less. Me wanting to hold to my life. And His telling me to lose mine. Me wanting it to be all about me. His proclamation that it be all about Him. It’s been a standoff. Right here in my hometown.

See, God brought me back here as a grown woman. He wanted me to see the truth. That despite everything, I was still the little girl I was. My foundation hadn’t changed.  The material still mattered to me. The tangible. The outer. In my eyes, things would make me special and image was of utmost importance. And despite a closet full of clothes, I was still seeking a new coat. One that says I’m special. Favored. Valuable. And yes, full of color. Perhaps like Joseph’s…

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Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; Psalm 104:1-2

So what do I do now? Well, what else can I do but shed my tired old coat. Because really, it’s time for a new one. But before donning a new frock of my own, maybe it would be okay if I just rode someone else’s coattails for a while. See, I’m tired. So tired. As such, maybe God would just let me ride His. And you know the great thing about His cloak, right? It’s light. And when light is refracted through a prism, well, you can see all the colors of a rainbow. In essence, God’s light is made up of all the colors. And so, it seems to me that if I simply ride His coattails for a while, well, I’ll find myself surrounded by a coat of many colors, after all. And isn’t that what I’ve been striving for my entire life anyway?

Yes, I think I’ll start there. I’ll ride God’s coattails. And in doing so, I’ll begin to see myself in a new light. His light. Red and yellow, blue and green. It’ll be like a rainbow…

I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another… Isaiah 42:8

Back to Jack. Had he lived, I wonder if he’d have thought my story was worth the telling? Could it actually help someone? Well, I think that will have to do with how my saga ends. Whether it turns out being all about His glory. Or about mine. See, if I let it become about His glory, and His light, it may well be worth the breath required to utter it after all.

Fitting In

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