All my life I’ve tried to fit in. The more I felt like I was different, the more I tried to fit in to the people immediately around me at any given time, to the world I live in, to the customs I’m surrounded by. Wanting to be accepted by one’s peers and one’s society is, I suppose, something that almost everyone goes through at least one time or another. In fact, I believe that God gave us the desire to conform, but His desire is that we conform to Him, not the world.
We can focus on being accepted by people, or we can focus on being accepted by God. Don’t get me wrong, God loves His children at all times. But we can choose behaviors and attitudes that are not godly and not acceptable by a Holy God. We can even choose actions that are not inherently bad in and of themselves, but if they’re not within the parameters of God’s perfect will for our own life, it doesn’t matter if someone else is doing it, or if a lot of people are doing it, it may not be God’s will for us personally, and so not acceptable for us to conform in that particular way.
I realize as I look back on the circumstances of my life that they’ve been so perfectly designed as to take me constantly out of my comfort zone and further away from feeling like I fit in more than I ever would have liked. And I believe that’s been the whole point. God doesn’t want me to fit in and be like “everyone else.” He wants me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because making a difference in the kingdom of God doesn’t always mean comfort (rarely, in fact). Instead of looking to other people for acceptance, I have a much greater, wiser Master to look to for acceptance, for confidence, for purpose, for passion, for my life.
God uses people who are willing to be different.
I think of the people in God’s Word that He chose to be witnesses of His love and will and they were almost always different than the flow of society. They didn’t conform to the world around them, but they conformed to God’s will for them, even when it was extremely difficult. They weren’t exactly your people-pleaser-go-along-with-the-crowd types.
I think of John the Baptist - the one who paved the way for the coming Messiah - who set up shop out in the middle of the desert, eating locust and wild honey and wearing animal skins, shouting that people needed to repent. I think of the apostle, Paul, who spoke so boldly for Christ, even if that meant going against authorities’ direct instructions, that he spent multiple times in prison simply for obeying his God. I think of Jesus Christ Himself, who said and did only what His Father instructed Him to, and that ultimately sent Him to the cross. He didn’t want to go there, but He submitted to the will of His Father because He knew that His Father could see the bigger picture.
And our Father sees the bigger picture in our lives, too. It’s not about conforming to the world; it’s about conforming to the image of our Father and fulfilling a much grander purpose than any this temporary life could hold. It’s about the grand scheme of this love story that we are in as we walk with the Savior Who has called us by name to walk with Him.
“Think of us as servants of Christ who have been given the work of explaining God's mysterious ways. And since our first duty is to be faithful to the one we work for, it doesn't matter to me if I am judged by you or even by a court of law. In fact, I don't judge myself. I don't know of anything against me, but that doesn't prove that I am right. The Lord is my judge.” (1 Cor. 4:1-4)