You’re Not Meant to Fit In

crayons

You’re not meant to fit in.

You’re not meant to be like everyone else.

There’s a unique design on the palm of your hand and in the ripples on the pads of your fingers that reminds you that you are created by God to be you.

To be you.

Please believe it.

I wish I had believed it sooner.

But I haven’t always believed that.

I’ve been looking for a place to “fit in.”

Just before I came to seminary, so many people at my undergrad college told me not to come here because I wouldn’t fit in. Looking back on it I see how the enemy was trying to keep me away from where God was leading, but I was very disoriented at the time.

“You’ll hate it,” they said.

“You won’t fit in,” they said.

“You’ll be outta there within 2 weeks,” they said.

I had a mentor at Furman named Dr. Nix, my senior religion teacher, who gave me some really good advice about graduate school. I really enjoyed hearing his wisdom and so I was on my way to meet with him one day as we had planned. But when I arrived, the Chair of the religion department was in his office. She said she wanted to talk. She went on to say she was worried that I was considering attending DTS. She went on to list reason after reason for which I was not cut out to go there. She said it wasn’t the place for me. She said I wouldn’t fit in. She said I shouldn’t go there. She said I should go to Duke Divinity School, the other school I was considering.

So I decided I would go to Duke instead.

I figured she was right and that and I would “fit in” there.

Graduation announcements went out and plans were being arranged.

But then it all fell apart.

I went to Duke for a pre-orientation day that April and I clashed pretty heavily with a professor there who was hating on contemporary worship and mega churches in a lecture. I was fuming. I asked him about what he was saying and we went back and forth. This went on about 10 minutes and everyone in the room was on his side. I was livid. I grabbed my free boxed lunch and left never to return. Probably shouldn’t have handled it that way, but at the time I just did.

After some prayer and guidance from my family, I decided I couldn’t go to Duke anymore and that I would go to DTS. I was excited to move to Dallas since I really did love it when I visited earlier that spring, but I was so scared about my decision.

The first few months of seminary began and it was very tumultuous for me.

Many nights I fell asleep while googling Duke Divinity’s transfer requirements thinking I should leave and just go there in the spring.

I didn’t feel like I fit in at DTS.

But God began to show me godly men and women here at DTS that have revealed to me the beauty and goodness of this place.

And I began to make friends. I began to really love my church. I began to appreciate DTS.

I began to enjoy it.

But this semester, all of those fears came back.

And I’ve been very discouraged about my purpose for being in seminary.

So much in my life has hit all at once. And I feel like God is changing everything I thought I would do with my life. Now I don’t know why I’m here in seminary and if it’s worth it.

I have wanted to drop out of seminary every single day for the past several weeks.

Anytime I get discouraged about being in seminary I think back to what that teacher at Furman said to me.

And I feel defeated.

“You won’t fit in there, Natalie.”

And I start to believe her again.

And it has caused me a great deal of anxiety.

Maybe she was right.

Maybe I don’t fit in here.

Maybe I shouldn’t have come.

I’m not the seminary type.

But the one thing I find myself drawn to is chapel.

I love chapel. I wish I could get course credit for attending it. I can’t get enough of worship and hearing the Word preached. Then one day last week I went to chapel and I got frustrated. As I listened to the sermon, I was very confused and startled at what he was preaching, most of which I didn’t agree with or believe was theologically accurate. I felt so angry and fearful all over again.

The one place I always feel at peace became a place of confusion.

I was so discouraged after.

I just wanted to scream!

A flood of all those insecurities started washing over me again. This really isn’t the place for me, I thought. What am I doing here!? I shouldn’t be here. I clash with this place. I’m getting in debt for nothing. I don’t fit in here.

I’ve had to come to a hard realization: not everybody is going to see things the way I do.

I can’t expect for everyone to agree with me.

I can’t everyone to have the same philosophies as me.

I can’t expect to not get offended.

I can’t expect for everyone to like me.

I can’t even expect to learn in a place where I don’t question things.

Even if I went to that other school, I still would have clashed with people just like I did when I went on the pre-orientation day. So in both places, I have run into opposition. DTS and Duke could not be any more different, yet I have personally clashed with both in similar ways.

So I am the one who needs to embrace the inevitability of opposing viewpoints in life.

Clashing with ideas is just inevitable.

So many people have different perspectives and different backgrounds that influence the way they think about things.

We all see things uniquely.

We all come from different places.

We’re not meant to be the same.

And sometimes, that means we will be misunderstood.

I used to be petrified of being misunderstood by others.

I’m the type of person that really hates to feel like I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. So when I feel misunderstood, it’s usually in connection with the fear that I’ve hurt their feelings. And when I feel that way, it is one of the most painful feelings that I experience in life. I would rather someone hurt me bad than for me to feel like I’ve hurt somebody else. So in feeling misunderstood and like I’ve hurt somebody’s feelings, I’ve had to realize that I can’t be in control over another person’s feelings. I can’t make someone understand me any more than I can make them eat a whole box of Krispy Kreme donuts under 2 minutes! It just ain’t gonna fly. Except back up and out their mouth. But that’s a whole mental image we do not need right now : )

So I have to learn how to be okay with the potential of being misunderstood.

Because for me, it’s inevitable.

I am a very passionate person who likes to express how I feel.

The only way I can get through life without being misunderstood is if I just stop talking and speaking up.

But I can’t do that.

I’m not wired to stay silent.

I wouldn’t be able to function that way.

I would go insane.

So God is teaching me how to embrace the uncomfortable feeling of being misunderstood.

This is something that I’ve needed to learn for a long time.

Because it happens to me a lot.

And it is really helping me to embrace my own identity, because I’m realizing that it is paralyzing for me to care more about what other people think of me than I do about what God thinks of me.

God knows our hearts.

And we have to let that be enough.

Now I see.

I’m not meant to fit in.

You are not meant to fit it.

Be you.

Be who you are.

Even if the people around you don’t understand you.

God knows you.

He sees your heart.

He sees your motives.

He understands you.

He gets you.

I’m not worrying anymore about feeling like I don’t fit in.

For too long, I’ve let this insecurity keep me stuck.

I’ve let it keep me from being me.

I’ve let it keep me from moving forward.

I’ve let it almost allow me to give up on the place God has me.

If I don’t fit in, then so be it.

Maybe God doesn’t want me to be like everybody else.

Maybe God doesn’t want you to be like everyone else either!

Maybe God wants you to be you!

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms. Verses 13-16 says this:

“For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.
15 My bones were not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in Your book and planned
before a single one of them began.

We need to all be different because in that variety, we can learn from each other.

So I’m finding that it’s okay to be me.

I’m finally allowing myself to be myself.

There’s no point in trying to fit some seminary student mold that I just can’t fit into.

I’ve already tried it for a year now and it doesn’t work for me no matter how hard I try.

So if you’re struggling to feel like you have to be someone you’re not just to please other people, please know that you don’t have to do that!

It’s okay to be you!

The real you!

I used to think that if people got to know the real me that they would think I wasn’t godly enough and look down upon me, and so I would hide certain parts about me that I thought weren’t “Christian” enough.

And it has been the most crippling mentality ever.

For too long I was paralyzed by my own fear of what others thought about me and my level of spiritual maturity. So I would refrain from doing what might make me look “less godly” in the eyes of other Christians.

I can’t listen to that music like I used to or they will think I’m not godly, I would think.

I can’t go watch that movie or they will think I’m not godly.

I can’t go to that place or they will think I’m not godly.

I can’t defend that philosophy or they will think I’m not godly.

I can’t talk that way or they will think I’m not godly. On and on and on this can go.

I’ve been acting this way ever since I’ve been here and after the past few months of God taking me to a really really low place in my life, I just don’t care anymore about what anyone thinks about me.

And God has used that to free me.

By gosh I’m going to be myself now. I’m tired of trying to be somebody I’m not. Especially when I really am trying to know God and follow Him more. I mess up every single day and feel like a failure constantly but I’m not playing the Christian morality game anymore. It’s a losing game. So I’m just looking to the Lord now and what He thinks about me.

Look to God for the affirmation you desire.

Don’t worry about what others think.

Don’t worry about fitting in.

God made you that way for a reason.

He always understands you.

He always gets you.

He always accepts you.

And He wants you to be different. Don’t suppress who you are out of fear that someone else may misjudge you. If they do, then so be it. You be you. And let God take care of the rest. Who knows. Maybe someone out there needs what you have to share and they can only receive that if you are willing to be you! So find relief, my friends, in the freedom of your unique identity. The world needs you. May you not forget that.

I pray that we will find comfort in who we are to God. I pray that God will refresh us by His Holy Spirit so that we might be captivated by Him and so in love with Him. May we find beauty in our differences of opinions. May we help each other learn through our strengths and weaknesses. I pray that God will continue to paint a beautiful mosaic of humanity that contributes in various, unique ways to His kingdom. Thank You, God, for how You have created each one of us. And may we love one another for how You’ve created us. May we cherish one another in appreciation of Your creation. Thank You for being our God.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”

– 1 Corinthians 3:16-17-

Questions for Today:

  • What keeps me from being myself around other people?
  • Do I fear what others think about me?
  • How can I elevate what God thinks about me above what others think about me?
  • Why should I embrace the uncomfortable feeling of being misunderstood?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Love On The Line” by Hillsong Worship ft. Aryel Murphy

Halloween, Love, and Strip Clubs

club red

People want love. And nightlife offers it. Or so we think. There’s an enchantment to nightlife. Glimmer. Attraction. Allure. It can pull you in like a magnet. And grab you before you realize you’re taken.

Halloween landed this weekend so me, my roommate and friends went out.

Strolling through uptown with cars barely inching their way forward through the crowded street, people in costumes were all lining the sidewalks waiting to get into the bars and dance clubs. Music sounding into the night autumn air and the desire for this thing called “living” manifesting itself in all kinds of enchanting ways. So it seems.

The lines were long and so we walked around the streets, looking at all the fun costumes.

And then I started to remember an experience I had several years ago.

An uncomfortable experience.

An experience I’ll probably never forget but has stirred my empathy concerning this whole nightlife scene.

Several years ago in 2009 I travelled back to Prescott Valley, Arizona to visit my friends.

It was their graduation night from Bradshaw Mountain High, the school I went to before I moved away to North Carolina, and my friend Hattie told me they had been planning a getaway to Phoenix. She said we would go that night after everyone was asleep and that her uncle would be driving us.

Being the naïve self that I was at 18 years old I thought, cool, yeah let’s go.

We took a short nap and then around 11pm, Hattie told me we were leaving.

She told me to bring my ID.

We got ready and us three girls slipped out the door with her uncle, getting into his truck to go up to Phoenix. (As I look back on it, I don’t see how I was so blind to let someone I didn’t even know drive me and my friends to Phoenix in the middle of the night. Just shows how easy it is for adolescent minds to get into problematic situations. If you’re a parent, have some compassion on your kids when they get into trouble.)

We cranked up the music in his truck and Hattie, being her usual comical self, couldn’t stop laughing and cutting up the entire way up there.

Then Hattie told me where we were going.

She said we were going to a club.

A club?, I thought, I can’t go to a…club? hmmm, well, this is their graduation and nobody’s around to tell me not to and her uncle’s with us, so it should be okay.

I was getting kind of excited as we got closer and closer to Phoenix, passing through Cordus Junction, then Black Canyon, then Anthem, then Mesa.

Then we arrived.

As we pulled in the parking lot, I noticed it was all men walking in.

A sign that read Le Girls was overhead. We walked inside and the guys at the front asked to see our ID’s. There was a cover charge but her uncle paid it and we were led inside to some chairs that were circling around a platform where one of many girls were dancing provocatively.

I was shocked. I realized what was happening.

No wonder he was so willing to drive us up there in the middle of the night and then pay for the cover charge and any drinks we wanted.

He had brought us to a strip club.

And there were naked and almost-naked ladies everywhere.

Platforms were scattered around, as the ladies were dancing with tall high heels.

I was so shocked that he had brought us there.

I didn’t understand why we were there but I didn’t know what to do.

Youth group never prepared me for the “friend’s uncle takes you and your friends to a strip club” experience.

And Hattie, being the jokester she is, just could not stop laughing.

Me and Jessica just sipped on our Shirley temples.

We sat there awkwardly while looking around the room at all this bewilderment around us.

The men sitting in the chairs watching the girls dance were looking at us, probably wondering why 3 teenage girls were in a strip club for men.

Then I saw the face of the man sitting to the left of me.

He was a middle aged man, probably in his late 30’s with a wad of cash in his hand. He was throwing dollar bills on the platform right in front of where he was sitting so that the girl on our platform would come over to him.

His face was like stone.

He wouldn’t make eye contact with her.

There was no emotion in his face even though she was dancing for him.

I thought it was strange that he looked so sad and empty.

He didn’t look all mesmerized by the lady who was getting pretty sensual in front of him.

But he kept throwing dollar bills.

Every time she walked away he would start to throw more and motion for her to come back.

I didn’t understand it because he didn’t look all happy and giddy like the other men from how she was dancing for him.

But he wouldn’t let her leave.

He kept throwing more money and more money.

He wanted her to stay with him.

He wanted her to choose him.

He wanted to be loved by her.

But he didn’t feel loved.

He looked empty.

And my heart was breaking for him.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more broken for someone in my whole life as I did in that moment.

God gave me compassion that night.

Compassion for that man in the strip club.

I saw brokenness on his face that I had never seen before.

No amount of pleasure was enough for him.

Ever since then, the way I look at the whole nightclub/strip club scene is very different.

What I see is this:

Going to the strip club is not the root problem here…

People are really hurting inside.

At root, it’s about people feeling unloved and in search of love that they lack.

At root, it’s about people feeling empty and in search of something that will fill them.

But it never does.

We left and drove back to Prescott Valley that night. And Hattie’s family ended up finding out the next day that he had taken us up there to the strip club. More than anything though, my heart hurts for that man I saw, for Hattie’s uncle that took us, and for anyone who goes to a strip club. I wish I could make all this pain in the world stop so that we wouldn’t need to run to it.

Do I think it’s okay to go to a strip club?

Of course not.

But that’s not the point.

We need to understand why people go there in the first place.

People just want to be loved. They want to give love. They want to feel something. Even if it’s just in the moment. And nightlife offers that. It offers a place where humans can feel those things immediately. We are broken people who need love and life so bad. And when sin is present, a person can give in to all kinds of sinful things. It shouldn’t be any surprise.

Sexual sin seems to simmer as a result of not feeling loved and consequently searching for a way to satisfy that sexual hunger ourselves.

But we can’t do that.

We have to find a way to let God satisfy that longing for love that we feel.

And sometimes it’s hard, because I don’t always feel loved by God in a strong, immediate way like I do when someone gives me attention.

So I have to ask myself… what is true? What is real love? This feeling that I have?? Or the truth that God is beyond my feeling???

I don’t have all the answers to this problem. I really don’t.

But I do know that we need the real, tangible love of Jesus.

And no, not on a tract! Tracts are lazy evangelism!

We need to love people well.

Be a friend.

Care for people’s souls.

Because if we’re honest, we all have the same heart issue that could make us the one inside that strip club.

We are all sinners before God.

Whether you’re a guy or a girl…doesn’t matter. We all want love and when we feel broken and needy of what we don’t have, I think you know what your body is capable of. I don’t have to tell you that. I know I don’t have to tell myself. We all indulge in sexual sin that is just as equally offensive to God. And we need to have compassion on one another so that the love of God can catalyze a desire for change.

I want to look at the nightlife scene through the lens of compassion. I know I struggle with heavy sins too.

So I pray that we will stop cursing the strip club and start loving those inside it.

Love them towards Christ.

What does that look like?

What about this…

-There’s a man who set up a coffee truck in the parking lot of a strip club.

People would pull in to go in the strip club and he would serve them coffee outside.

For free.

He would make lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, anything they wanted. Every night around 10pm he would set up shop and stay until the wee hours of the morning. He would play music and set up chairs for people to sit. He would talk to them and ask them about their day. He would talk to the girls that worked at the strip club asking them about their life outside of work and about their families. For a year he did this. After a while, he knew the names of all the strip club employees and the men who frequented. He also knew their stories. He knew what was going on in their lives.

He had been praying for them.

They would ask him why he gave his coffee for free.

He would always answer the same: “It’s cold outside and I figured you might need a cup of coffee.”

This man gets it.

He knows how to love well. He never condemned them for their involvement in the strip club. He knows that if he wants to gain their respect and trust, he has to meet a physical need first. And being a cold windy city, especially at night, he thought free coffee might be a good way to start relationships with the people going in and out of the strip club. A way to show them the love of Christ.

And soon, all of the men and the girls, who worked there, started to ask him how he pays for the coffee.

He would always answer the same: “God provides it.”

“God provides it?”, they would ask.

They didn’t understand why God would provide coffee for them since they were living a lifestyle that the “church” would condemn.

But the man said that God didn’t condemn them.

He said, “God wants you to be warmed and told me to give you coffee.”

Soon, all of these men and women started to ask him more and more about God and almost the whole staff of the strip club ended up coming to know Jesus. Now that would be an amazing story. That’s what it looks like to love well.-

I pray we will love one another without condemnation. I pray we will ask God to draw people to Himself through gentleness and compassion. I pray that we will realize that we are all hurting human beings and we all are filthy before God. We are all sinful and disgusting in His sight without Jesus taking our place. We all need the same grace. God, may Your Spirit fall and show people what Your love feels like. Give us Your real love, God. Lord, help us to love one another just as You have loved us, in tender kindness and consistent love. No matter what.Thank You for Your compassion on us.

 

“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.”

-1 John 4:11-