Honestly speaking, I was terrified to let people in high school know I was a Christian. Mostly, I was afraid that they judge me or push me away. There was a deeply seeded fear of not fitting in. Doing anything that would affect my ability to “fit in” was not a thing I was interested in since I never really felt like I fit in anyway. So, when I was around my friends, I changed my behavior to reflect theirs all for the sake of being accepted and included.
Then along came Liz. She was different. I never heard her swear or do the things that everyone else did. She stood out and, at least from my perspective, was okay with that. If you asked her why she didn’t do the things “normal teenagers do,” she would simply say because she is a Christian. This stunned me. Here was a person who held the same faith I held, but who displayed it dramatically different. She didn’t wear the mask of a false personality but allowed her faith to be her guiding factor in her life. It was because of her that I started to make some decisions in my life to removes some hinderances and sins that had been running loose. Her influence showed me it was okay to remove the mask of fitting in.
The mask of fitting in can be a dangerous mask. We wear it to cover our faith, fearing the consequences of showing our faith. Maybe we fear being outcast. Maybe we fear being judged. Or maybe its fear that we would have to change. Whatever the case, we wear this mask out of a desire to fit in and be accepted by a group of people. The trouble with this mask is that it pushes us to sin. Not just to sin, but to compete in our sin in an effort to “out-sin” each other. As we wear the false mask of fitting in, we push the bounds of our sinful flesh in an effort to be loved by the world.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
– Mark 8:34-36, NIV
Prepared To Be Lonely
Unfortunately, taking off this particular mask, we must be prepared to be lonely. We may gain the approval of the world through the mask of fitting in, but we do so at the expense of our soul. We cling to our flesh while releasing our spirit to the harsh winds of the world to be tattered and torn. So we remove the mask. When we give up trying to fit in with the world, we can see that our Heavenly Father remains, arms extended to hold us as only a Father can.
At times in this world, that will feel lonely. It will feel like we are the last of our kind, the only remnant of those who are confident enough, if we can even call ourselves confident, to live out our faith. We will be left out of parties, not invited to places, have our conversations cut short, and our friends diminished because the world will not look favorably on a person who proclaims the redemption that comes from Christ. We will look around and feel alone.
And yet… our Heavenly Father will still be there, arms still extended in love. Suddenly, after feeling like we have nothing, we will find we have everything we need. We have the love of a Holy and Eternal God.
Support The Lonely
We know that we are not alone, but we can remember how scared we were to first remove the mask. As the body of Christ we must be willing to ease that lonely feeling for each other. We must be willing to be the reason that no one feels the pain of thinking they are the only ones carrying the faith in a sea of hostility. We must be willing to simultaneously hold each other accountable and stand with one another. Together, we pursue God. Hold fast to the brotherhood that lifts us up. Fight for the family. From the God that lives deep inside of our soul, we show people that there is safety of removing the mask of fitting in and standing firm in the arms of our Heavenly Father.