I've spent a lot of my life not knowing where I fit in. I've never been one of those people with one particular talent or trait that made them stand out. In elementary school this led to feeling awkward and lonely a lot of the time. Teachers could always count on a wise crack from me because at least if someone was laughing they were noticing me. In middle and high school, I never belonged to a particular group. I could be friends with anyone and wandered between the jocks and cheerleaders, the party crowd, the nerds, and preppies. This often led to finding myself doing some things I knew were not right or that I didn't even want to do in the first place. Even in my adult life I have found it difficult to figure out exactly where I belong.
One such instance occurred a couple of years ago. I home school my three daughters and we were included in a creative writing co-op. The group was made up of other home school families and while the kids worked on creative writing assignments or dramas, the moms would gather in another room to have tea and chat. It was a great group of ladies who were all cordial and kind. But each month when we gathered, I didn't feel like I fit in. My make up might be a bit too heavy and my clothes a little too form fitting. I was a little too loud for their liking and my jokes were always met with blank stares. My good friend would laugh nervously along with me and try to make things not so awkward. I would leave each week sure that they stayed on behind me to pray for me as I'm sure they were convinced I was really a heathen needing salvation.
One day while our girls were working in the other room, I found myself with one of the other gals having a very detailed conversation about rutabagas. I have nothing against rutabagas, I use them in fall recipes and they can be quite yummy, but there I was acting like this was a passion of mine. We discussed the different varieties, how well they are grown in the Virginia soil and when to harvest them. My friend kept looking at me with her big blue eyes as I offered up my two cents on this fascinating root vegetable. She knew I was full of it.
Honest to Pete, what was I doing?! Trying to fit in, that's what. And it wasn't working. I think this lady knew I wasn't really interested and my friend knew I knew nothing about gardening...I have a black thumb! I knew I was not being authentic so the whole ordeal felt miserable. I eventually stopped meeting with this group and feeling yet again that I didn't fit in. (If you are a teenager reading this, understand that your adult parents still feel like you sometimes.)
I was telling the rutabaga story to someone the other day and she pointed out something so sweet to me. God made us all different and the body of Christ is made up of so many unique people and parts. Each one of us has a different skill set and personality, all to draw people to Jesus and accomplish different things for the kingdom.
1 Corinthians 12:14-23 says:
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.
We all need one another. The folks who seem so very different from us are very different and for good reason! Everyone has a function! Some people are feet and some are eyes. Some folks are meant to cultivate rutabagas and some are meant to tell funny stories. Each person's gifting should be celebrated and honored not compared and judged. When we judge others we bruise the body the we are meant to care for and build up.
I'm finding myself more comfortable with me these days and I find myself in less awkward situations. Not because I am totally sure of my purpose here; I believe God reveals a little more of that each day. I do know that part of my insecurity is because I was comparing and judging and not honoring. I could have just listened and learned about rutabagas and not pretended to be a root vegetable farmer. And! Those ladies were likely not holding prayer meetings behind my back, I only imagined that because of my insecurities.
The next time you and I have a rutabaga moment, let's remember just one line of today's Bible selection:
1 Corinthians 12:8
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.