When I was younger, I admit, I was always the kid who wanted desperately to be liked and to be popular. It often seemed that the harder I tried to be liked, the less interested people were in knowing me or accepting me. I say that not to bash those people; it's a hard truth to accept, but I have come to understand that those people were never obligated to know me or be my friend. That doesn't make rejection feel good, but it is atleast a recognition of the boundary lines in relationships. And I suppose desperation is not an attractive cologne to wear either, so that probably did not help my situation. I remember being the kid in high school who could mostly get along well with everyone, but there was no single group I fit into. I always felt like an outsider to the other cliques in high school, in many ways. Sure I had friends, but the friends around me never really meshed into a group of any kind.
In all the following years, sometimes it seems like not much has changed. I still fall prey to comparison, the thief of joy. And this past week, I had a revelation: I believe I finally realized that as much as I would like it to be the case, I will never be someone who makes following Jesus look cool. In my heart, I have wanted that. I have yearned for it desperately. For most of my life, I have yearned to find my "tribe", so to speak---the place and people where I would fit in and my idiosyncracies would make sense. I wanted to be someone who both followed Jesus passionately and was popular with people too. It didn't have to be fitting in with a "cool crowd" by the world's standards; just finding a group where I made sense would have been sufficient. And coming to accept the truth that I will never be that kind of person has been a grieving process for me. Maybe that sounds dumb, and I am in some ways embarrassed to admit my shallowness and pride, but it is what it is.
I'm not saying that some people don't like me generally, or even individually; but the truth is, I am not cool or hip. I am awkward and nerdy and sometimes, I am very lonely. In group situations, I usually spaz out a little. I am not the one people gravitate to in a group, either. I have spent most of my life battling anxiety and depression, and wasted way too much time here on earth in the fruitless comparison of my life with the lives of others, or trying too hard.
The last couple years have been difficult for me, and for our family. After leaving our last church, we have struggled to find our place. And for a Christian who dearly loves Christ's body, there is no worse feeling than being "church homeless." And that is what I have felt very acutely. Adrift. Trying to figure out where I fit in the body of Christ, and what I have to both give and receive to Christ's body. Wanting desperately to find the answer, but still at a loss. Wanting to be more than just a ministry opportunity; wanting friendship, and a tribe to call my own.
Joe and I have prayed alot. We are still seeking what God wants for us with regards to where we are supposed to be planted in Christ's local church. And I struggle not to be jealous at times when I see other women refer to their "tribe"; not because I wish for them not to have one, but because, while I have good friends (and I love them dearly and am thankful for them), I lack that intangible something called community. I have several good friends; I am involved in groups and genuinely like people in those groups; but connection on a group level has not happened as of yet. And even though I am over forty years old, I still feel like I have not found where I "fit in". Or what exactly it is I offer the body of Christ in service and spiritual gifts, that is needful and something I actually can do well. Mostly I have plodded along, trying to be faithful with opportunities that come my way, but the fruit I have seen has sometimes been small.
While I will continue to seek spiritual and scriptural wisdom regarding what true Biblical connection looks like, I have begun to think that maybe community level intimacy is not essential for following Christ. It may be that community wide intimacy is not even possible, here on earth, atleast. However, intimacy with Christ IS essential. While God commands that his people be a part of a local body of believers, and that we love one another, there is no guarantee in scripture that I will feel close to those people, or find one group and be there the rest of my life. I have also realized that I am not called to be "cool". God is not impressed or unimpressed by how good I look when I serve Him, just THAT I serve him and live in relationship with Him. And that I am obedient. Jesus must be my first love. And if I live in a place of abiding in his love, then rejection from people or the world won't hold the power over me that it has held in the past. Actually, I recognize trying to be "cool" is the opposite of what Christ promised his followers. If the world rejected Him, why would I assume it would be different for me? If I am grounded in His love alone, I will be free to truly love people, even if or when they reject me personally. I will be discerning enough to keep on the path Christ has for me individually, even when it looks scary and different from others around me. This has been a hard lesson for a recovering people pleaser like myself to learn. But I am doing my best to be what I tell my kids to be: teachable and humble.
I would appreciate prayer for wisdom on this, and that God would reveal to me what my purpose is here, and how I am called to best live out the Great Commission. It's my heart's greatest desire, not that I would be cool, but that I would be found faithful, whether I am ever "cool" or not.