There have been many times in my life where I prayed that God would just make me “normal”. I just wanted to fit in, to be average. And equally probably just as many times when I felt much less than average and perhaps of little worth at all.
I just wanted to be liked, accepted, and to feel like I was a part of “the group”, but those moments have been rare and for short periods.
God has spent my lifetime wooing me and romancing me to convince me that I am uniquely and wonderfully made. Every now and then for a shinning moment I can wrap my head around that in a way that is not conceited but humbled by the grace that God has bestowed upon me (and upon every man as well). But the path of following God and living to fulfill His purposes for me and please Him only is not a simple task.
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” – Galations 1:10
God has given me a unique view of life and some incredibly strong convictions that make my life choices much different from others. When I follow what He has told me, I see the beautiful fruit of His guidance, but it is often painful to feel so alone.
“But when it pleased God, who separated me…and called me through His grace to reveal His son in me that I might preach Him…I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood…And I was unknown by face to the churches…which were in Christ.” - Galations 1:15,16,17, 22
“And I went up by revelation.” - Galations 2:2
Paul goes on to talk about how He was not taught by the disciples but mostly by the direction of the Holy Spirit through His intimate relationship with God. We must be careful about this, though, because the enemy can use these times of loneliness to deceive us and distort the Word.
But as much as I cry out to God for fellow men to walk with me, it feels like when Jesus was in the garden struggling with his burden and to stay the course and the disciples could not stay up to pray with Him but continued to fall asleep. It is lonely and painful, but it does draw us closer to the Father. It makes us stronger.
God continually reminds me that while a community is essential and beneficial, and friendship builds us up, that each time our friends let us down and we look to God for our strength, we build intimacy with our Beloved Creator and gain greater character and strength from Him.
It is challenging to walk alone. It is so tempting to just compromise a bit here and there to keep friends or make others like us. No one wants to be an outsider. And these feelings are not only outside the church, they sometimes even feel magnified for me there, because it feels like that’s the place where everyone should be seeking Christ. But the church is full of fallen human people too. And just because God has called me to one such season, doesn’t mean that He has called everyone else to it.
The other temptation in pushing forward in God’s call alone is to judge other’s for not going with you. This is a fruitless effort as well, and only builds bitterness and a greater likelihood for us to trip and fall.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” -Galations 5:1
The “yoke of bondage” Paul talks about here is that of living by the “law” instead of the “spirit of the law” which is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. All the laws hinge on these points. When you walk with God, you walk in the Spirit, and you walk in freedom. In many ways, the law also represents the need to impress or be liked by others. Paul talks a good deal about those who are even in the church who try to bring people back into bondage and create divisions and criticize and judge.
“But you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another…But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.” - Gal. 5:13,15
“But if you walk in the Spirit, you are not under the law. But the works of the flesh are evident (OBVIOUS) which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murderers, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” -Gal. 5:19-21
There are many loaded words here, but the two that stand out to me are contentions and jealousies – these are so common among relationships…the same relationships in places where we are trying so hard to be liked.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Gal. 5:22
Ironically, though, as wonderful as all these things sound, these traits are not likely to make one popular. People much prefer someone a little “rough around the edges”, someone they can compare themselves to and feel better about themselves. The fruit of the Spirit while healthy and free from condemnation of self and others, will elicit much admiration and respect, but many feel lesser in the presence of such traits. It is easier to be around someone who you feel is kind of a mess.
Christ told us that the way is narrow, but He also told us that His burden is light. What makes His burden light? When we are only living to please Him, He carries it all for us and supplies all the grace we need for each moment. We become burdened when we start to look outward or inward instead of upward, and try to please others or do it all on our own.
We are not called to be “normal”. We are not called to be average. We are called to live extraordinary lives and walk in victory that others cannot explain. Extraordinary is measured by the opposite of ordinary, not the measure of success labeled in this world. And it will be challenging and painful and even many times lonely, but will reap an incredible harvest.