Someone referred to me the other day as “one of the cool kids.” I just about coated them in coffee straight from my mouth. I’m certain my eyebrows hopped right to my hairline, a quick retreat fueled by surprise and disbelief.
Was this person 100% serious? No, not completely. They were a well-adjusted adult, after all, mostly just expressing a light hearted thank you for being included in an invitation. But still, it got me thinking.
Ask any adult: middle school was universally mortifying. I have never heard a soul admit they made it out completely unscathed. In the moment, though, didn’t it feel like you were the only one? The only one crying in the bathroom? The only one who wore her Halloween costume to school on the wrong day? The only one whose hair puffed out past her shoulders? The only one searching for what it took to really belong? To be more in than out?
I carried that search into church with me every Sunday morning and Thursday night, looking at the kids on my right and my left, scrutinizing the similarities and differences. These kids can answer Bible questions. They know Elijah and Elisha were two different people. Their dads wear sport coats, their moms stay at home, and they all go to private school together. And none of their lives looked like mine. I loved Jesus, but I didn’t know how to belong in His family.
It felt like all of life was saying, “You can’t sit with us.”
I had wonderful, intelligent, hilarious, compassionate, generous friends then. I have them now. A few of them are the same people. It has never stopped me from walking into a new group and thinking, “Are these my people?”
What I have come to realize, however, is that I am not really asking if I have found a group of like-minded souls. I’m asking myself to measure the likelihood of rejection.
When I walk into a church it’s especially pointed. Any flannel in here? Any non-ironic beards? How fancy is the denim in here? How many sport coats? Yeah, maybe these aren’t my people.
I am confirming I don’t belong before I have even learned one name. I tell myself, “I know who I am, and I am not one of you.”
But if I really knew who I was, and whose I was, I could never think such a thing.
You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into the holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22
God takes foreigners and strangers and makes them part of the same household. He builds them into His temple, where His Spirit dwells. He takes every outsider and makes them an insider, every person cast aside He brings together. Flannel shirts and sport coats worship side by side. People who can recite all 66 books of the Bible in order read God’s word alongside those who have never cracked it’s pages. And every one of them is a brick to build God’s temple, just as perfect and worthy as the ones on either side.
It is not up to you whether or not I am good enough to sit at God’s table. So, I am going to stop asking you. I’m not asking anyone. My belonging is not up for a vote and neither is yours. Never bring your sense of belonging to the group for a vote. Always bring it to Christ.
From here on I stop looking for ways to fit in and start looking for ways to make welcome. It’s not enough that I get to sit here, secure and snug, when there’s space enough for everyone. I stop deciding who is and is not “my people,” because everyone in Christ is His people. I talk to people who make me nervous or who don’t look like me or who disagree with me. I look for ways to make myself a little more uncomfortable in order to make someone else more at ease. I invite people in when I’d rather shut them out.
His table is big and He has saved you the best seat in the house. You CAN sit with us.
He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:6-7