It’s hurtful, not fitting in. In my elementary school days, during gym class, I have vivid memories of the coach saying it was time to divide the class into two teams so we could play whatever game he had prepared for us that day. My heart would pound heavily; I knew I would inevitably be the last one standing, waiting to be picked. That’s a feeling you never get used to! Finally, almost painfully, those picking the team members would sigh heavily and say, “I guess we will take her.” It was embarrassing, hurtful, and it made me wonder what had I done or not done to make it so difficult to pick me?
Through the years, I carried that rejection with me everywhere I went. It seemed no matter what I did or didn’t do, I was unable to attain to the level of “cool” that was expected of me. I learned to be prepared, I was going to be left out; not invited to birthday parties or fun events, I was obviously not wanted, and I was sure there must have been something wrong with me. As the years went by and I entered high school, I grew increasingly introverted. In the latter part of high school, I stopped trying to fit in with the other kids and began the process of accepting myself as God had made me – it wasn’t always my fault that I wasn’t part of the “crowd.” Once I began to fit into my own skin, I found it easier to accept that being apart from the crowd wasn’t so bad after all. I made friends who didn’t mind my standing on the periphery of what was cool. I developed my own coolness, the “anti-cool.”
The world pressures all of us to fit into a certain mold so we can be accepted. The church has even coined a word for its attempt to make itself more palatable to the world: relevance. Before I go further, let me make it clear from the start that I believe that the church needs to reach out to this world in ways that puts the love of God on clear display. If it helps people who normally wouldn’t associate with church or church people to have a coffee bar available during services, then have a coffee bar. If it helps people who usually avoid church because of stuffy dress codes to have a more casual dress code – go for it! Some things just don’t matter like cups of coffee or whether or not we have cool dress codes for the staff and worship leaders.
What does matter goes beyond the surface issues of coffee, jeans, T-shirts, and how many programs we have going on during the week. The things that make us, as the church, stand out from the world are what matter. If we remove ourselves from those things that make us different, then we have allowed the rejection we feel from the world mold us and not God.
We’ve not been born into God’s Kingdom to fit into this world’s kingdom; we have to choose which one we will be part of. It may help to remember that Jesus Himself warned us of how the world will react to those who follow Him:
Luke 10:16 NKJ “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”
Rejection by this world and its systems is to be expected and the only way to come to terms with it is to understand that the rejection we feel has more to do with the Jesus we have inside of us than anything we have done. Jesus’ presence makes the world feel uncomfortable. We’re often all too easily persuaded that we have done something wrong, that we aren’t attractive enough or cool enough to have people understand or be part of what we are doing.
Matthew 10:16,22 TLB “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves…Everyone shall hate you because you belong to Me.”
Jesus and His message are not cool; He is not concerned about being popular or being voted as “most likely to succeed.” He is concerned with you being comfortable with the fact that it doesn’t matter if you fit in with what the rest of the crowd is doing. He accepts you, He loves you, He is the only One Who really has your best interests at heart – He wants the best for you.
I’ve heard it said this way before, “Jesus wants the best for you and He is the best, by far.”
I encourage you today to let go of the pain of rejection you feel by following Jesus. Actually, being rejected is part and parcel of serving Him and we’re to count being rejected for the cause of Christ as an honor.
1 Peter 3:13-17 NKJ “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
No, we don’t go around looking to suffer, that would be counterproductive! However, when push comes to shove and we are rejected, misunderstood, defamed, and as it happens in some places in this world, imprisoned, lose our property, or even put to death for the cause of Christ, we should ask God for the grace we need to get through it.
Be yourself! Enjoy the unique person He has created you to be and celebrate His love for you for His love is pure with no hidden agenda. You’ve not failed when you stop trying to please people. Instead of failing, you have succeeded.
Rejection by this world is not a mark of failure, but rather it is a mark of discipleship. As you travel on the road of being a true disciple of Jesus, remember this: fitting in is overrated!
How’s your fast going? Talk about being different from the world! Who else but crazy Jesus lovers would fast for a time just to hear from God? I pray you are steady throughout this the last week of our 21 days of drawing closer to the Lord. I feel spiritually revitalised and have renewed vision. Thanks for walking with me on this journey, it’s such an honour.