I haven’t ever really fit in. I grew up a poor, overweight, shy kid with a last name that just begged to be made fun of. I didn’t have a lot of friends and lunchtime at school was brutal. My only sanctuary during my middle school and high school years was the band room. Music was literally my jam. I was good at it and it provided me with the life-giving breath that I needed to make it through those years.
But over time, I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin. I’m still overweight and can still be aloof (because I’m an introvert that likes to listen more than I talk). I also have a very mannish haircut, a nose ring, and a few tattoos (although only one is visible). Oh, and I’m also studying to be a pastor. In the south. In a denomination that can, depending on which flavor, be somewhat hostile towards women preachers. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a support system who affirm my calling and choice of hairstyles both of which make me feel empowered to be me.
Still, sometimes I feel exposed. Like people are looking at me and judging me. I’ve got this voice in my head that comes around periodically and reminds me of how much I don’t fit in. Sometimes she whispers. Other times she screams. Then I start thinking I should probably grow my hair out and get rid of the piercings so I can be more feminine. Maybe wear more dresses. Or lose weight. Definitely that. Or learn how to be more outgoing. Speak up more!
Why is it that we always want to change to fit other people’s expectations of what they think we should be?
Last Sunday, I preached for only the second time and for the first time ever in a church. A small country Baptist church. This tattooed, short-haired, female preacher. Before entering the church, I was pretty nervous that they wouldn’t accept me for who I was. That they would look at me and think certain things about me based on my outward appearance. I did wear a dress, mostly because I was a guest and I read that it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. But also because I was hoping that it would smooth over the visible short hair, tattoo, and piercings. Because good, Christian girls aren’t supposed to have those things, right?
But I also preached on Ephesians 2:11-22. In the passage, the author (maybe Paul, but probably not) is talking specifically to the Gentiles. Fun fact: We learn in the passage that the Jews called the Gentiles names, specifically “foreskin” because of their uncircumcised natures. In a word, the Gentiles did not fit in. Even in the early church. In some circles, the Jews were telling them they were unclean and that they had to follow all sorts of rules, including getting circumcised, in order to be included in the church.
It reminds me of the Plastics in Mean Girls and all of the rules that they had for being able to be included in their group. On Wednesday’s we wear pink! One day, Regina shows up in sweatpants. On a Monday. Which is totally against the rules. And when Gretchen and Karen confront her, Regina says it’s because they’re the only clothes that fit her because she’s gained so much weight. Because Cady’s sabotaging her, but she doesn’t know that yet. When Regina wants to abandon the rules that she has used to exclude other people from the uber-exclusive lunch table, Gretchen loses it and screams, “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”
This what the Jews were doing to the Gentiles. They were using the Law that God had given them to help them live as God’s chosen people in order to exclude others from the early church. But what we learn in this passage is that because of Christ’s blood, the barrier of the law was destroyed and a new humanity was created. That doesn’t mean the morality of the Law was destroyed. Love God, love neighbor. Those are still excellent guidelines. But what was abolished was the ability for the law to exclude anyone from the foot of the cross.
A place where:
No one has a privileged place.
We are all equal.
No matter your citizenship status.
No matter what you’ve done.
No matter what you look like.
No matter how much money you have.
You are accepted. Just as you are.
Because of the blood of Christ.