As a plain, dowdy nerd, I was always an outsider in school and had low self esteem. Rejected by the cool kids of the in-crowd, I was often the butt of cruel jokes. I hated walking into a crowded room, fearing everyone would stare at me as if I was a pariah. I preferred to fade into the wallpaper, so no one would notice I was there. Then, maybe I would be spared embarrassment.
It is still an issue that rears its ugly head every now and then, even though I know I am accepted by God as His child. But, He has graciously helped me grow in confidence over the last decade to where I now enjoy traveling and speaking with women in Bible studies, retreats and workshops. I can walk into a room without elephants pounding on my chest and boulders churning in my stomach.
Last February, I was privileged to lead a retreat for the women of the church where we had reared our son. It had been fifteen years, and many more pounds and wrinkles, since I had seen these ladies. Yet, they were all as excited to see me as I them. In fact, four women who had moved away, drove in just for that weekend to hear me. It was tears and hugs all weekend. I thought, wow, I really meant as much to them as they had to me? It was very humbling, and very affirming glimpse of what eternity will be like.
Last summer I had major surgery and was basically home bound for a month. When I walked back into church, I saw eyes light up and smiles glistening. Women called out my name and extended arms, telling me how much they had missed me, how good I looked and how they had lifted me in prayer. Another glimpse.
Just last week, I was to meet another woman on the board of our area denominational women’s council for a pow-wow over dinner. She got to the restaurant before I did. As I entered the vestibule, her eyes shone with love as her smile reached them. “I am so glad to see you again,” she said as she squeezed my hands in hers. A third glimpse.
We all feel the need to belong and with Christ in us, we do. We are in the in-crowd – the Christ In Us crowd called the Body of believers. We are members of an eternal family. On a whole, I find Christian women more accepting and less back-stabbing or gossip-tended, don’t you? Where as the worldly-minded tear other people down so they themselves can seem better, Christ-minded folk build people up because they know He is best. We all know we have fallen short, and that is okay. We understand we are works in progress, and that we are outsiders in a land which is not our home. That is what bonds us together in Him.
Christ’s sacrificial love on the Cross is the sinew that binds all of us together as the Body. The Holy Spirit intertwines us in an network as equal recipients of God’s grace and mercy. There is no need for jealousies. We are all made worthy through Him alone. He gives us each a talent for His glory. When we keep that attitude of gratitude, we get glimpses of eternity.
In and out of the church walls, God unites, Satan divides. We can choose to see others through God’s glasses of love, or Satan’s critical magnifying glass. We can also choose to see ourselves either way. If we are too critical of ourselves, we will hide under our bushel in fear of rejection. But if we see ourselves as Christ does, we will move our insecurities to the background so He can shine through. And, each time I do that, I am acccepted and eyes light up, because He is at work. So it is with you.
No matter what side of the fence you were on in school, the rejected or the rejector, do not let old ways of thinking and feeling wedge you from being Christ to a hurting world. Paul told his congregations over and over again in his letters to greet each other with a holy kiss.
But, be wary lest we begin to feel cliquish in our Christian community. If you see someone milling around the outside of the room during the coffee hour, draw them in. When you see somebody you do not know walking through the doors, ask if you can sit next to them, even if it isn’t in your favorite pew. After worship, introduce them to a few others. And, at a party or in a crowded meeting in the real world, act as you do in church. Reach out to another who looks as if they want to fade into the wallpaper and coax them in. It could be a life changing, and life saving thing to do for someone else.