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!