I come from a background where being different was not okay. I felt the rejection and disappointment of others again and again for not falling in line and being the same as the rest of my family. Especially in my extended family, there seems to be a certain formula and mold for life that my aunts, uncles, and cousins have easily conformed to, while I have not. I guess you could say this made me the black sheep of the family.
As someone who was adopted, this actually became a kind of traumatic rejection. I was only 6 days old at the time of my adoption, but being adopted and then never fitting the mold, had a compounding effect that was exacerbated by moving to a new neighborhood, city, or country every year on average. The compounding effect created this unspoken message in my mind: I will never fit in, I am not acceptable the way I am, I should be more ______ (like someone else; organized; popular; sporty; serious; mature; goal-oriented; motivated; fill in the blank). Being the new kid (and adult) dozens of times in my life made this really stick, especially in Canada and the U.S. where, in my experience, the new kid (and adult) is more likely to be mocked or ignored than welcomed with open arms.
Since becoming a Christian, I’ve continued to struggle to understand where I fit in. The church is not necessarily more welcoming than the world in general. I still feel like an outsider, and have been in more than one church where not many people have made an effort to be welcoming and inclusive. As far as I know, I look normal and come across as normal, or within the normal range at least (it’s only once you get to know me more that you realize I’m not “normal”, haha). I am not covered in tattoos or piercings, I am not obviously living an alternative lifestyle, or anything else that might cause church people discomfort on first meeting me. So I can understand how the people that do fit that description might have a hard time walking into a church, especially again if they are not made to feel welcome the first time. But my own inability to fit it must stem from something else. Is it just being the new one? People who’ve never felt the blank of not belonging, don’t naturally know that others feel that way. Perhaps it is a case of perception being reality. I feel that I don’t fit in, therefore I don’t fit in. If I felt that I fit in, even if others didn’t make that effort, I would have a different reality. In any case, I haven’t yet been able to change this perception, and it makes it difficult to feel loved. When you never have a sense of belonging, even in your family of origin, it is tough to feel like a loved person. This makes it difficult to attain true healing from emotional wounds, and perpetuates a cycle: not belonging > not feeling loved > unable to heal > unhealed issues keeping you from trusting, meaningful relationship > not belonging, and on it goes. This in turn can become a reflection, for a wounded Christian, of who God is. If other Christians abandon us, hurt us, treat us in an unloving way, we can fall into the trap of feeling that God would do the same.
We have to understand this is not true. We are made in God’s image but we are not God. He is faithful when others are not. He loves us all the time, outside of our own timeline. He thought of us before we knew what thought was. And when people hurt us, He hurts with us. This is part of my process of learning “how to lean”: learning to understand that God loves me, even when His people don’t. No matter how I feel, I can go to the truth and be comforted.
The other night I was driving and worshiping God, and as I sang and played air keyboard and air drums, and was silly and goofy while still sincerely worshiping the Lord, I had a moment. In that moment I felt like I was seeing me through God’s eyes, and feeling how He loves me just the way He created me to be. I am silly sometimes. I am animated and like to goof around and have fun, and there are people who would make me feel like that’s not okay. But I knew in that moment that it’s totally okay with God. Not just the goofy stuff but all of me that He designed, the best me: the one that is actively loving God and feeling joy and peace as myself in the process.
For some, this concept will seem obvious, and if you are that person, I thank God that you grew up in a way that you felt loved for your differences as well as your sameness. That’s a huge blessing that many take for granted. But if you’re at all like me, and have not always been loved for the ways that you’re different from those around you, please know that God made you, designed you to be uniquely you… on purpose!
The creator of the Universe, who also knows the number of hairs on your head; who had your days written before you were born, loves you. Have you felt and seen His distinctive love for you?
Father God, I pray for your love to reach through our walls and wounds and be real to us today. Thank you that you love each of us uniquely. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How amazing are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.Psalm 139:16-18