My granddaughter Maggie had a tough time when she got to middle school. Until then, she had the same best friend for years – through primary and elementary school. But things changed in middle school and she felt like she didn’t fit in. She didn’t have a group of friends to sit with at lunch or hang out with outside of school. It was a hard year. But God brought her two new friends in seventh grade, Kate and Torrance. They are like three peas in a pod. Maggie now feels like she fits in somewhere, and isn’t that what everyone wants – even what we all need?
We need to belong. When we fit in, it’s easier to be authentic, to be ourselves. We don’t worry about being judged. Our friends like us just the way we are.
Fitting in is important, but even more important is where we fit in. When an alcoholic stops drinking, they need a new set of friends because they no longer fit in with their drinking buddies. In the beginning they might not fit in with the sober crowd either, so it’s a hard transition to make, and some people struggle to maintain sobriety because of it.
That leads to the question of where I should want to fit in. As a Catholic Christian, I most enjoy being with others who have a strong faith. We like to talk about God. We like to share what’s happening in our faith. We like to have conversations about what we read in the Bible. We can easily talk for hours.
I lead a group called Sisters in Faith. The ladies who come are from different churche, but they share a common love for God and for Jesus as our Savior. The conversations in our meetings are often deeply personal, with people sharing their struggles and hopes and joys. It’s a place they can be vulnerable and honest about their lives. It is a place where they fit in and the Holy Spirit works in powerful ways to help us grow stronger in our faith.
As Christians we should always choose to fit in with a group that lifts us up and makes us want to be better. I know a young man who was considering joining a fraternity, but after spending some time with the boys there, declined their invitation. He said that he didn’t like the person he was becoming when around them. He didn’t want to fit into that group. That was a wise decision, surely inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus advised his disciples to be in the world but not of the world. He said, If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. We can fit into the world, or we can fit into the Kingdom, but we cannot fit into both.
What does it mean to fit into the world?
- We buy into the values of the world – fame, money, power. Yet none of these things will make us happy. The more we chase them, the more willing we are to compromise our standards. And sometimes we accept treatment that denies our dignity as a human person.
- We buy into the morality of the world. Everybody’s doing it, so it must be okay. It’s easy to follow the morality of the world. I can indulge in whatever behavior I want. But God always calls us to a higher standard, beyond the morality of the world.
- We buy into the language of the world – cursing and vulgarity. Most television shows and movies are filled with language that is inappropriate for children. That language is also inappropriate for adults. The second commandment tells us not to use the Lord’s name in vain. Yet in the world we hear it all the time. In Colossians chapter 3, Paul warns against vulgarity, yet that language is very common today. We become numb to the language that offends God.
- We buy into the approval of the world. Someone once said to Jesus that he wasn’t a respecter of persons, which meant that he didn’t treat people differently based on their status in society. When I worry about what others think of me, I’m trying to fit into the world. Jesus said that if people hated him, they will also hate his followers. We cannot fit into the world and still follow Jesus with our whole heart.
We were made for Heaven and so we don’t fit in to this world. Instead we buy into the values given us by God: love Him and love others. Love is the measure of success. We buy into the morality given us by God in the Commandments, in the teaching of Jesus, in the letters of the apostles. We buy into the language of God, which means speaking respectfully to others and keeping God’s name holy. We buy into the approval of God – we desire to please Him – even to delight Him. Peter said in Acts 5:29 – We must obey God rather than men.
Fitting into heaven is not easy. Many people will reject us. Some will ridicule us. In some countries our lives may be in jeopardy. It takes courage to reject the values of the world.
But we don’t have to do it alone. We may not fit into the world, but there are people like you and I that are on the same journey, looking for a place they fit in. They may be in your church, in your family, in your neighborhood. If you already have those people in your life, thank God. Allow them to strengthen you, to challenge you to be better, to encourage you when you are struggling, to comfort you when you are hurting. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron.” When we fit in with the right group, we are iron sharpening iron, and we are blessed.
If you don’t fit in now, pray for it, seek it. There are others like you. At my church we have Sisters in Faith, where women come together to talk about God. We have That Man is You, where men do the same. In both groups, we’re trying to grow in holiness together, to embrace our calling from God, to love and serve. It’s a place people feel comfortable. They fit in.
I don’t fit into the world. That doesn’t mean that I isolate myself. I’m called to spread the Good News. If I only do that with people who already believe, I’m not fulfilling my calling. The Apostle Paul interacted with people who were not like him. How else could he share the story of salvation? When he met with those people, he was genuinely interested in them – in their souls. He maintained his Christian worldview no matter who he was with. That’s what we’re called to do. Be in the world – spreading the Truth of the Gospel – without buying into the lies of the world.
If you’re in that middle school phase of your spiritual journey where you don’t fit in, you’re kind of awkward, take heart. It won’t last. God is preparing some great friends for you, people who will love you and accept you and challenge you. They might be goofy or serious, quiet or loud. But the thing that sets them apart will be their love for God and their boldness in living a life worthy of our calling.
Questions for prayer:
- Has there been a time when you felt you didn’t fit in? What were you trying to fit into?
- Where do you fit in now? If you don’t have a place you fit, what are you looking for? How might God be preparing something for you?