This Sunday, I am beginning a series at Stone's Throw Church called, "The Seeds of Doubt." It is a four week series where I will be addressing various areas of life that cause us great doubt. We set up a poll online and asked people to submit areas in their life where they experience great doubt. I can't preach on every single issue so I have decided to blog about some of the doubts and questions raised as a supplement to the sermon material.
Today, I want to address the issue of fitting in and being accepted socially. This submission stood out to me because many of the responses were about the problem of evil, why God allows bad things to happen to little children, and other seemingly serious theological issues. This submission stuck out to me because it was simple and short and I think it resonates with everyone form a three year old child to the oldest person alive. It simply said, "Fitting in at school."
Not fitting in is the result of so many different factors it seems - clothes, style, culture, age, religious beliefs, being from a different neighborhood, awkward personality, being misunderstood. I sometimes wish that every junior high student could fast forward to their parenting years before they ever said a mean thing to a kid in their class. I asked my 7 year old song the other day what was the worst thing that happened to him that day (I also ask what was the best thing) and he told me that one of his classmates told him that they were no longer friends because he thought my son had told on him for talking when he wasn't supposed to. My son assured me that they were friends again because his friend found out that my son had not actually told on him for talking during quiet time. My heart was broken for just a minute as I imagined the days when I first learned that sometimes, people suck. I remember the days when I first started to learn that some of us just won't fit in.
Why is this? Simple - we sin and we are sinful. We want to worship ourselves and we want our gods to want what we want. Kids are mean to you at school because they have their own idols that they want to keep hidden. They want to be powerful. They want to be popular. They want other people to like them. The don't want anyone else to steal any of their thunder. They may also just be sad and lonely themselves. Their home could be dysfunctional, they could be practicing what has been preached to them, or they may have bitterness in their lives.
Not fitting in doesn't end when you graduate the 8th grade, 12th grade or college. There will always be times in your life when you feel like the odd man out. Older people feel this when they have retired and no longer feel useful. Middle aged parents feel this when their children have taken over their social life. Churches don't always do the best job of allowing others to "fit-in." Maybe you don't feel like you fit in not because of anyone in particular but because you have grief in your own life and you aren't sure of yourself or why anyone would want to hang with you.
Let me get straight to the point now - Jesus did not fit in. His disciples did not fit in. Christians in the early church did not fit in. I don't say that so that you will commiserate but rather so that you can understand that Jesus knows what it is like. He knows what it is like when others want a piece of you. He knows what it is like to be misunderstood. He knows what it is like to not fit into the social norm. Do not doubt God when you feel alone. He has been there. And he has promised that you are not alone.
Second, the desire to fit in usually comes from an identity issue. We don't like who we are. We are told that a healthy dose of self-esteem should get us through. But self-esteem is more of the same. Our identity has to be firmly locked in on Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that if we have come to faith in Jesus that we have a new identity - we have crossed over from death into life. There may be times when we don't feel like we are a part of what is going on. Is our identity in that party, that group, that line of clothing, that feeling, that power or that popularity? Or is our identity in Jesus?
If you doubt God's care for you because of the way others are treating you, I'd like to encourage you to look into God's character. He has always been King of the broken and lonely. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you things about your identity in Christ.