Fitting in without having to fit in

I’ve just realised something about why today was so very profoundly wonderful for me. It’s about belonging, being loved and accepted just as I am – you see, I’m an Israeli living in England, a Jewish woman living among Gentiles, and there was a time in my life when I tried to just blend in, to learn the norms of the culture around me and not be too different… I even used a different name when I was new in England, a name that sounded British, telling myself I was doing it because of wanting to make it easier for people – it would be much harder for them to pronounce my Hebrew name, I reasoned…

But the truth is that I was trying to make things easier for myself. I was trying to avoid the discomfort of sticking out like a sore thumb. I wanted to just blend in…

It’s been a long journey and sometimes it’s only when you’re at the mountain top you suddenly look back and realise how far you’ve come.

I’m in a very different place now than the me who arrived in the UK back in 1989 and wanted desperately to belong – so desperately that she was willing to employ chameleon techniques, even to the extent of changing her name.

I’m in a very very different place now. And so today I dressed up for Purim and went to church. And the reactions I got were so nice, so loving, so positive – I’m sitting here now hours later and suddenly it hit me: what happened today was a demonstration of a very profound thing about church when it’s working as intended – that we fit in without having to “fit in”, blend in, become part of a homogeneous blob. We – each individual person who has put their faith in Jesus and so become part of the massive worldwide family called church – we don’t have to do anything to become acceptable, to fit some kind of norm, to imitate the others around us…

We can be ourselves, we can stick out like a sore thumb, we can turn up in church with our hair in bunches tied with my little pony hair bands and a silly drawing on our face as I did today and say: it’s a special day in my culture. And it’s fine, because we don’t have to pretend to all be identical clones.

I said I’m in a different place now, and I meant that in two ways: internally, and externally. Internally I’ve come a long way, I have the love of Jesus and so I’m a lot less insecure and needy than the old me. Externally though – I’m now part of a church that, while obviously imperfect as we’re all of us imperfect, is generally a church that is working as intended.

And it’s those two aspects that worked together today – me feeling brave enough to try, and my church family living up to expectations. By which I mean God’s expectations, not mine. Because mine were, I confess, a lot lower. Not that I was expecting it to be terrible, but I wasn’t expecting it to be anywhere near as wonderful as it was.

End of rambling. It’s late and I’m half asleep but I needed to verbalise this – I hope I’ve managed to be coherent..

If you get nothing else from this, here’s what I hope you will understand: that church is a place where you don’t have to fit some kind of mold to be able to fit in. I belong there simply because I believe in Jesus – there’s no extra entry requirement. Pink hair, blue hair, whatever – or as Paul said in Galatians: Greek or Jew, male or female, slave or free… Whoever you are, whatever your background or your style of dress, put your faith in Christ and come on in!

Questions? Thoughts? Talk to me - I don't bite :)

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