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

Tears, Airport Terminals, and When God Gave Me Pain

terminal C

Why does God give us pain?

I know why He allows pain. I know why He permits pain to exist in the world. It’s a product of fallen humanity. Nothing will be free from pain until Jesus comes back and ushers in the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21). I know all of this.

But why does He give pain?

Not allow it.

But give it.

That’s what God has been doing to me.

God’s been straight giving me pain.

I’m at the airport making my way to the Atlanta concourse connection train.

Seas of people gliding with rolling suitcases and determined looks on their faces pass on either side. The smell of Cinnabon and Chik-fil-a linger in the few air particles left for breathing. Beep beep!! sounds the golf cart behind me transporting an elderly lady with gray hair and a driver whose eyes scream move out of the way before I make you. It’s a busy thoroughfare here in Atlanta. You can’t get to heaven or hell without passing through, so they say.

I like it.

I like being in the middle of the chaos.

It’s the only thing holding me together…being enveloped by the crowds.

People are everywhere. And I don’t feel so alone. But inside, my heart is torn in a million different ways all begging for my eyelids to relieve the pressure welling up. But I can’t cry. I’m stronger than that, I tell myself. I don’t need to cry.

Besides, I had already determined on the plane from Dallas I wasn’t going to be the one everyone was looking at like a crazy person. Everyone glares and scowls at infants crying on airplanes, I had thought to myself. A 24 year old with a pony-tail and pink tennis shoes would probably be even more of a disturbance. I can hear it now…will the pony-tailed girl in seat 25B please keep it down, please! You’re going to wake the sleeping babies who themselves have managed to overcome both the air pressure and their biological hunger alarm. Get over it. Thank you kindly.

So I wipe away the tears rolling down my face as I gaze out the foggy window. Clouds are resting in the air so effortlessly. How do they do that, I think to myself? Clouds have nothing to worry about. They have no life. They have no soul. No joy. No pain either. Hmmm.

Why did God give me pain, I wonder…

Ring ring!! goes the overhead speakers as my mind comes back to reality.

Please do not leave any items unattended… shouts from the sound system as I make my way onto the concourse train. If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that announcement. But they mean what they say.  I made the mistake of leaving my backpack alone for 5 minutes at the airport when I was 11, never to see it again. My life savings of $60 and my little Liz Claiborne black purse that I loved so much gone forever. Oh the sadness of an adolescent who’s small world had fallen apart. I got over it.

The train comes to a halt as I hold on to the top metal bar overhead. My feet fight to keep my body from swaying from the sudden stop but I can’t hold it. It’s a balancing act, isn’t it? Trains. Life. Other things.

The doors open as I exit and meander around the bend to the escalator. Up I go. I see Concourse C up ahead. I hope the plane isn’t delayed this time, I think. But then again, I could use a delay. I could use a couple more hours alone. And here in this crowded airport is the perfect haven. No one knows me. No one has to talk to me. I don’t have to be happy anymore.

I am free in this endless sea of strangers.

Oh the comfort they bring me.

Keep smothering me, strangers.

Keep smothering me.

I just want to stop and sit over here against the wall in endless nothingness. Lost in this sea of people. Here in the middle of concourse C. Next to the store with Falcons jerseys and Welcome to Atlanta postcards. Just let me be. Earbuds in and music playing, nothing matters anymore. The plane could leave me if it wants to. I just want to remain here invisible. I want to remain here…

Tears, why won’t you fall?

Tears, why won’t you fall?

You don’t have to hold it in anymore.

No honor in concealing your drip dropping crystals.

It’s beautiful.

Fall, little tears.

Just fall…

Gate C39 departing for Charlotte now changed to C41! Gate C39 departing for Charlotte now changed to C41!

Jolted from melodious diversion that is my phone’s playlist, I hear the speaker. Earbuds why can’t you be louder! I turn it up. My phone has a warning on it: increasing volume may lead to hearing impairment. Believe me, Droid, that’s the least of my worries. I turn it up some more.

“You Don’t Miss a Thing” by Amanda Cook (no-not the Aerosmith song thank you Jesus) playing in my ears as I close my eyes and submerge myself into the obscure. I want to believe what she’s singing but it’s hard to right now. I don’t feel like God sees me. Or if He does He’s probably annoyed by me…probably sick of me and my fragility. I’m such a mess. He’s probably sorry He told me anything to begin with…

Maybe I should go to my gate now, I tell myself.

I get up to walk to C41 but the weight starts to overwhelm me. I want to crumble. Not from my backpack. Though it has my purse inside, which my Dad swears is going to give me long-term back problems. Not from my suitcase. Though it contains a dozen books that the airport security gave me a hard time about. I start to think about the pain God has given me…all that has happened…I can’t get past it…I don’t know why God told me what He did…maybe I didn’t hear from Him correctly…I feel broken and confused and weak.

I keep walking.

There’s a string of people flowing from the Starbucks into the middle of the concourse line all waiting for their pick me-up.

Man I wish I drank coffee, I think to myself. Right about now would be a good time for coffee. Or maybe some Tequila. Yeah, Tequila. DTS did just change their policy after all. But I don’t think Mema and Papa would know what to do with a drunken granddaughter just in from seminary. Ha, oh the irony! Guess I shouldn’t…

Airport terminal, you’re comforting to me.

Airport terminal, you’re refreshing to me.

Here in this pandemonium of disorder and chaos, I feel safe.

I feel at ease.

Embrace me, airport terminal…

Draw me in.

Drink me in like a strong glass of Malbec.

I just want to stay here in this airport terminal.

The clock is ticking and I still have an hour left until C41 prepares for boarding.

I feel tears accumulating in the back-storage areas of my eyelids. It’s growing heavier and heavier. God, why have you given me such a painful confusing Word from Your Spirit? Why have you led me into something You knew would end up this way?

I’ve been confused at God for many weeks now. Feeling like God put something on my heart a while ago that provoked me to prayer and petition concerning it, and then it ended up not even being possible. I don’t understand why He did that to me. He’s never done this to me before. He’s never led me to something He knew would be heartbreaking. He’s never given me straight pain.

Tears start oozing like the Hoover Dam is about to be opened.

And nobody wants to be around in its wake.

I can’t restrain it anymore.

I want to find a place to just cry but there are people everywhere.

Looking around trying to keep my head down so no one will see the catastrophe that’s about to take place on my face, I see a Varsity Grill and a restroom right next to it. Oh how I love The Varsity!, I think to myself as I run to the bathroom to escape. If only I wasn’t a wreck I would so eat a chilidog right now. But there’s no room for that…

Waiting in line with my suitcase trudging behind and ladies filtering in and out, I finally make it to the bathroom stall.

Oh blessed bathroom stall!

Despite your less-than-favorable smell and putrid sounds, you are a sanctuary to me.

All the tears I’ve been holding in all day just erupts like Mt. St. Helens out my eyes.

I weep and weep. And I’m cold from this AC that won’t stop blowing on me. I don’t know why God answered all my prayers up to a certain point if He knew it was unavailable to me. He should have never let me get close to it. God, why haven’t you protected me? You always have! You never let anyone through! Why did you this time? Why did You answer my prayers to make certain things happen that I wanted to happen if it wouldn’t work out in the end? You shouldn’t have answered me at all. You should’ve just kept it away from me from the beginning and then I wouldn’t have had to experience the pain of losing what I thought You were going to give.

I yell at God as I weep there in the terminal C bathroom stall.

I can’t leave.

Every time I try to regain composure to leave and go to the gate the tears come back. It’s as if I’m not meant to leave. Like I’m supposed to make my home there in the bathroom stall…a permanent weeping resident who keeps the other women from lingering in the bathroom too long. No one wants to hear that kind of crying.

But does God?

God, do You see my pain?

God, do You see my pain?

Do you know what You’ve put me through?

I get that You want to teach me.

I get that You want to grow me.

But do you see how I’m hurting here?

Do You even care?

Why have You given me pain?

I don’t know why God has given me straight pain this time.

It’s like He shot me with the arrow Himself.

Not the devil.

Not other people.

God did it.

God did it!

God’s the One that started it.

God gave me the revelation and put it in my heart to pray for it for months.

And He answered so many things leading up to it.

And then He just let it all be nothing.

He’s never given me a revelation before that ended up being painful. But this time, He did.

Everything within me wants to go back to the place where I’m in that bathroom stall in the Atlanta airport. I want to hide away. I want to cry alone in a secluded and unhealthy place. I want to avoid God and anything else He might ever reveal to me again. But I can’t do that. I can’t. I know I can’t get through life without God. If I think life is hard with Him, it would be impossible without Him. I would surely die. So I’m not going to shut myself off from Him. I would kill my only chance for life if I do that.

So I’m praying that God will show me His purpose for straight giving me pain. I’m asking Him to show me why He put something in my heart that is causing me such heartbreak and confusion. And I hope for dear life He answers.

Today I felt led to visit a different church, Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. Before I moved to Dallas, I thought that would be the church I joined because I love Kari Jobe who came from there and a couple years ago I got to hear their pastor at my old church, NewSpring, one Sunday. But I ended up joining another one.

Today at Gateway, they played a short promo video for their upcoming conference and one of the speakers they featured said this:

“There is something about you that Satan wants to silence. But you’re not gonna let him. God will get you through this. It’s His job.”

I don’t know what you’re facing right now in your life. But know that if you are experiencing intense spiritual attack, God has the power to get you through it. He is the only one who has the power!

I pray that God will start to unleash freedom in our world to all those who are hurting as we await for final redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ. We may not get all the answers we seek here in this life, but One day we will get to be held in the arms of Jesus who will never let go of us. I don’t believe that He is just a Spirit or beam of light. I believe with my whole heart that I will get to touch Jesus. I am waiting for that blessed day. And He will be so much more comforting than an airport terminal, I do believe. Hallelujah.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will live with them.

They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.


Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.”

-Revelation 21:3-4 –

“Nothing Is Wasted” by Elevation Worship

Home. There’s A Wind Blowing…

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I came back home this weekend.

It doesn’t feel like home anymore.

But it reminds me of home…

…the place where memories rest in eager anticipation of my recollection.

And now I recall…all the memories this place has brought…and the nostalgia of Fall linking me to my past…linking me to any place I’ve ever called home.

There’s a wind blowing…

Crisp air that smells of crackling dry leaves. It’s Fall in North Carolina and the hues of red and orange and yellow blend in with the brown and green leaves still turning. I love the way God paints the trees in the Fall. It’s like a glimmering mosaic of different kinds of beauty. And the brown reminds me of the gift of a new season. What joy it brings.

There’s a wind blowing…

This time it’s red dirt and tumble weeds dancing upward into the sky. It’s the desert. And the smell of fresh earth is like wet clay when it rains. I love the smell.

It reminds me of monsoon season living in Prescott Valley, Arizona…when rain pours and pours as God cleanses the air of desert and dust. It pours like the tears of a weeping widow mourning the loss of her husband …like a woman in labor…like a child alone. It pours and pours. And the lightening joins the thunder in a cacauphony of wretched sounds.

The power used to go out at the house. We’d get the lantern we used for camping and candles to make some light. I’d wait for the power to come back on but it never would. Usually not till morning. So I’d drift to sleep and the next day would arrive with sunshine and desert warmth. I was around 11 years old and my brothers and I and our neighborhood friends would ride our scooters to the bottom of the road to the wash…where all the water accumulated…and we’d play in it like we had discovered Disneyland. Muddy and wet from kicking up water on our scooters. How simple the delights of a child.

There’s a wind blowing…

Snow is coming as the Christmas lights hang brightly on my Mema and Papa’s porch in Marion, North Carolina. Pink clouds drape the night sky as the moon nestles itself behind its veil. I can smell the moisture in the air coming in with the cold wind. It’s like fresh linens and pine. And the trees all sway with anticipation.

It’s Christmas Eve and all of our family is together in Mema and Papa’s living room. The kitchen still covered in flour and sugar and cinnamon from baking. I love baking. Later in the evening it’s time to go to sleep. But my brothers, my cousins Holly and Faith, and I are still wide eyed and too excited about seeing Santa. We can’t sleep. All tucked in with 5 of us in the living room, air mattresses squooshed together, we scheme to sneak off into the kitchen. The lights are off and it’s hard to see. Still we make our way to the door to Mema’s room, the only way to the kitchen.

And we crawl on the carpeted floor to the kitchen laughing and giggling as if we are spies on a mission. The danger is alluring to a 9 year old. We warm up the leftovers and then sneak outside to the road in front of the house. Down in the holler not many cars go by at night. And we talk and eat and laugh and sit under the barely showing stars. Cold but brave in the wake of our adventure. We think we’re invincible. Everyone in the house sound asleep. And the holler is quiet waiting for Christmas morning.

There’s a wind blowing…

A memory still in my head. The days I used to watch my brother’s practice football in Prescott, Arizona and my dad coaching. Shelbee was always my faithful canine accomplice. And everyone loved her when I first started to take her as a puppy. “Oh puppy breath!” they all would say leaning in to pet her, melting at the look on her cute little face. I’d be holding her wrapped up in a blanket. I’m around 13 or 14 years old. Cold and fridged to the bone. Wind blowing…cold air numbing my ears as I watch the team run routes and do Alabama drills.

Then practice would be over and before long I would be warm in Dad’s red truck. I remember he would turn on the heater and I’d put my frozen hands into the air vents waiting for the hot air to come out. I was so cold! Even then I can see evidence of my still impatient impulses. That air vent was a life saver to me. Oh how I thank God for that air vent! Everything was better when I was warm inside Dad’s truck and we rode home.

And ironically those memories make me love the cold so much.

I go back to that place in my mind every time I feel cold weather… the place where I watched my brother’s practice on cold fall nights…the place where I sat wrapped up in blankets with my dog Shelbee…the place where I ran to hot air vents…the place where the cold was always worth it. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

These memories remind me of home.

From North Carolina to Arizona. From desert dust to fall leaves.

From moments of angst to moments of joy.

Home.

Not one place.

But a place that triggers memories.

A place I go to in my mind.

Uniting many histories and experiences.

Constantly evolving.

A place that will be made real when I see Jesus.

Home. 

“Through All of It” by Colton Dixon