You were called to be apart, not to be a part.
A little space makes a big difference, literally and figuratively. If you are anything like me, you probably dedicated a portion of your life to trying to fit into the right crowd. I think deep down we are all looking for acceptance. First, acceptance for who we are as we are, but if as we are isn’t enough then we shift to Plan B, assimilate.
We do our best to conform to societal norms, and if you remember middle and high school – that’s all it was — a bunch of kids doing their best to navigate one big popularity contest. Well, that’s my perspective. My view might be a bit jaded because I was not fond of grade school mostly because I was still trying to find myself.
What made me special?
I had an idea, but it didn’t get much attention in my hometown – learning. No bookworm, but scholastics came relatively easy. My favorite subject was English, probably why I enjoy blogging now. History is also a thing for me so I enjoyed “Social Studies”, which I am currently relearning because, well, you know, systemic oppression.
However, I was a kid trying to fit in, so I downplayed my love of the pursuit of knowledge, even to the point of self-sabotage in 5th grade. Instead, pursued endeavors that were more in alignment with those of my friends and the grade school popularity pyramid.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved sports. I was just bad at them. I tried my hand at basketball, terrible — football, not as bad, but still bad— track & field, ehh, I was slow, but I had endurance, so I was serviceable as a distance runner. Longer story short, I should have been in a creative writing club or on a debate team, but I wanted to be a part not apart, and creative writing wasn’t getting you any cool points. Nor, were those activities offered.
Can you blame me?
I wouldn’t blame you. Being apart is scary and at times just plain unsafe. Something in us desires connection, but the key is to connect to the right outlet. There will also be times in your life where you must go at it alone, if for nothing else than your personal development.
God will get you in a place of isolation to get your focus and to get you focused. There is a plan for your life that only you can fulfill. To be connected to the wrong people will not only do you a disservice but all the people that you are designed and assigned to help. You don’t know them yet, but they are out there and they are waiting for you.
You may not have to go at it alone, but you may have to go at it away.
Away from all the things you deem comfortable. It’s funny how life works this way, but too much comfort typically leads to discomfort, think obesity; and discomfort that is measured and applied appropriately leads to comfort, think exercise. Discomfort leads to growth.
My discomfort came in the form of transferring colleges. Initially, I enrolled at my first university with my two best friends from home, and I wasn’t forcing myself out of our bubble. It was safe. Though protected, I wasted two years of my college experience because I didn’t extend myself into the strangeness that can be a college campus. That didn’t happen the second time. I got comfortable being uncomfortable.
I hit the ground running — this time I had to make all new friends. I joined student organizations and took leadership positions. By the time I graduated, I had spent my energy – but I accomplished my goals.
Do not let comfort get in the way of your calling.
Your future is depending on the choices you make today. You don’t have to cut people off, but you might have to distance yourself. It’s really not them; it’s you.
Being apart presents itself differently at different phases in your life. Use the time wisely and cherish the isolation if you can. In retrospect, you will see that what felt like confinement was actually refinement. The separation will not last forever. You will find your tribe. Whether it’s spouse, family, friends, mentees, whoever, you will then know why you had to be separated.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this post, brother! The Bible teaches that as children of God, we are called to be separate from the world. Not in a sense of elitism, but as change agents against societal norms as you’ve mentioned. Though this separation is certainly uncomfortable, it is not only for our good, but for the good of those that we are actually separating ourselves from. We are to be lights to the world without allowing the world to diminish our light. No one lights up a lamp to hide it under a basket, instead we put it on a lampstand to give light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16). Our light can’t shine in fear’s darkness, but it illuminates where there is courage to be who God has uniquely called us to be.
*cues the music to “This Little Light of Mine”*