Still, well into adulthood, I find myself just wanting to fit in. It’s not in the same way as it was in high school of course. I’m not hoping to be invited to the right party or pretending to smoke a cigarette or claiming my drink in my plastic cup wasn’t water, when it was. This was how I “fit in” as a teen. Today, I want to fit in with a life that follows the appropriate succession of events.
I realized this recently over lunch with a friend. We discussed how each life phase brings its own set of expectations. With college, a degree and a job. With a job, a spouse and a home. With a spouse and home, children. That’s as far as we got because between the two of us, that’s as far as we’ve gotten. But I’m sure the expectations continue as your children grow and your career progresses. And I think we continue to live in a tension pulled on one side by fitting in and on the other side by wanting to be our own person. Rarely can we be both but always, we want both.
We’ve learned life’s paint-by-number. We see the outline; we just don’t always have all the colors to fill it in. This can be irritating and disheartening and depressing and discouraging. We want all the colors.
In about four weeks my little sister will get married to the best guy. It will be beautiful, and I’ll cry “ICan’tBelieveMyLittleSisterHasGrownUp, She’sSoBeautiful, LookAtMyDadGivingHerAway” tears, like I did at my older sister’s wedding. Yet, this has reminded me of a color I haven’t found. Barring a strange act of God, I’m not getting married in four weeks nor in four months. And I’m looking for the instructions for my paint-my-number, and I can’t find them.
Maybe your instructions appear to be missing, too. Maybe something has not happened in your life succession you thought should have by now, or something happened too quickly and you weren’t ready for it and you’re still reeling. This can make us feel out of place. Like we’re doing something wrong. Like we don’t fit in.
Think about the words Paul uses to describe us in his letters: Aliens. Sojourners. Exiles. Strangers. These are the things we were before Christ. The words he uses to describe us after redemption? Citizens. Saints. Members. God’s people. I like “members” best because it can so often feel we’re not a part of the club, and we so often find more comfort in the pieces fitting and the societal norms than we do in our own salvation.
And the sad part is, when we make moves based on these expectations, we forget who we are. We forget the quirks and passions and dreams that make us us and we turn them over to what make us feel a part. We forgot that we already are a part. We forgot that we “are no longer strangers and aliens, but…fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).