Struggles Fitting In
When I was in grade school, I never felt like I fit in. That feeling followed me into my teen and adult years. I’d love to say this problem no longer exists now that I’ve hit mid-life, that I am now secure enough in who Christ made me to be that the desire to fit in no longer plagues me. That would be a lie.
Certainly, I am more confident, but the desire to fit in still lingers and often rears its ugly head in social situations.
Over the years, I did adapt to not fitting in. At some point, I even began to seek out ways to emphasize that aspect that seemed to define me. If others are doing something, I look for ways to avoid doing exactly the same thing. From clothing and accessories to exercise, eating, and social interaction, something inside me now purposes to go against the flow, even if only slightly, of what the majority does.
Both Right and Wrong
“To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)
In other words, Paul tried to find common ground with people in order to bring them to Christ. Of course, this does not mean sinning, but it does mean getting involved in people’s lives and being authentic with them.
So, in the sense that my going against the flow sometimes causes disconnection with people I could influence, I am wrong in my approach. In fact, doing so has led to missing out on some significant witnessing opportunities.
On the other hand, John 15:18-27 clearly indicates that to a great extent, Christ followers won’t fit in with the culture surrounding them. In other words, we must be in the world but not of the world (Romans 12:2). Jesus certainly set the example for us in this area by spending time with and ministering to those who needed Him most and who were often social outcasts, but He did not let them change Him.
When my intentions fall into the realm of wanting to remain separate from the material and fleshly focuses of the world, my approach to not conform and follow the crowd then seems wise.
Resist the Call of the World
Perhaps both of these approaches need to exist. Maybe both looking for commonalities and connections need to exist alongside being an outsider. In my quest to find that balance, I realize that the outsider status must still dominate; otherwise, my impact as I connect and care becomes less effective.
Being an outsider, feeling like you don’t fit in with the crowd (i.e., culture), can indicate progress towards becoming more Christ-like (John 15:18). Realizing that Christ chose you to be an outsider can keep feelings of rejection and aloofness from affecting your walk with Him (John 15:19).
What’s more, knowing that people aren’t really rejecting you but are actually reacting to their fear of the unknown creates a motivational steadfastness to perhaps amplify your outsider status (John 15:20-21). You see, knowing Jesus creates a responsibility that so many people want to avoid because it means increasingly living as an outsider.
Knowing Jesus can mean breaking the death grip that the need to belong and be accepted by the world has. A dying to self must happen, though, and this scares people. So, many instead choose to succumb to the call of the world and seek to eliminate any feeling of an outsider status (John 15:22).
Even with evidence of a better way, hate of Christ’s ways exists without any real cause except a desire to avoid the truth of Christ (John 15:23-25).
God’s Holy Spirit reveals truth that reveals Jesus (John 15:26). As His Spirit dwells within us, our outsider status feels more and more like home, like a place of safety, peace, and joy. In that, we discover the courage to bravely tell others about the Jesus who welcomes outsiders. In other words, we become better able to care and connect in an authentic way.