It’s story time, folks! This morning I felt led to share a tidbit in hopes that it will encourage some girls anywhere from age 10 to 100. Or beyond. So here goes!
I have been so blessed in my early adult life, that I feel like I’ve been rewarded tenfold for spiritual/soul things that I felt like I wanted and didn’t have in periods of my life. I want to talk about “fitting in”.
What does this term mean? “Fit In”? In nearly any age group where it matters, fitting in describes social acceptance or maybe even more profoundly, a personal satisfaction/fulfillment that comes with being positively associated with desirable people. Maybe it is a gateway to self confidence because if I am accepted by really cool people, then maybe I’m cool too! If I’m pretty, maybe boys will like me. If I dress the right way, people will talk good things about me and want to be like me. If I befriend the right people, then I’ll be known for having a lot of friends and then people will want to know me to figure out why I have so many friends!! The list goes on and on.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane and stop at my 6th grade classroom. This year was a year of change for me since I cut my hair above the shoulders for the first time and traded in my glasses for contacts. This was also the year that many girls in my class began to adopt identities like “band geek”, “nerd”, “popular”, and “preppy”. Although we never really embodied those cliche terms to the fullest, the grouping and labeling of people was there. I could have lived another two years with the belief that anybody could befriend anybody during puberty and all would be honky-dory! But alas the Queen Bees made their appearance, the band geeks would retreat to the band room during PE, and the popular girls and boys would fall in line to do what popular girls and boys do. And then there’s me, who really didn’t have a particular place to be except bouncing back and forth with the cool kids and kids I really had fun with.
The popular girls were girls who started to wear makeup that year, and it looked good. They started to like some of the boys in class and sometimes the boys liked them back. They were the girls who made you feel like you were missing out if you didn’t want to hang out with them. I remember playing make-believe with a friend during PE sometimes. We would pretend we had collapsable items that minimized into keychains we hung on our belt loops. Very science-y I know. We each had things like cool retro cars, a cabin or a boathouse, a restaurant, and a gas station. With the push of our mind’s eye button, we could watch them change shape like a Transformer, down into cute little cubes that swung daintily on our belt loops. But we were interrupted by the Queen Bee herself.
“Come on over here with us!”
“But I’m having fun over here.” I said.
“You want to be cool don’t you?”
“Yeah.” I replied meekly.
“Then stop being a baby and get over here.”
Like that it was done. The power of persuasion, popularity, and the threat of ostracizing had worked it’s magic.
And I left my friend by herself without even saying a word.
Some friend I was.
I wish that back then, I could see the pain it caused my friend at the cost of me wanting to be “cool”.
Throughout middle school and high school, the power of these girls increased with their addition to the cheerleading squad, being on top of the latest fashions, scandalously dating boys who were years older or younger than them, and sometimes even ignoring the rules at school by skipping class, wearing hats inside, or showing up for important things late. I didn’t make cheerleading pre 7th grade. It was almost like my fate as a weirdo wannabe was sealed. In high school, they took modeling classes in Jacksonville, sported their cheer uniforms at school, left school to get lunch, had really cute boyfriends whose undying love was the best Romeo and Juliet of our time, were elected onto every Court for Valentine’s Day, Basketball, and Homecoming, and were just plain beautiful.
This power would tighten it’s hold on me up until the age of 22. So, let’s fast forward.
I am 22 and attending a wedding of a friend whose engagement photos I photographed. She was friends with the middle school Queen Bees. Honestly, the Queen Bees and I were never really friends and beyond high school, we never crossed paths. I finally felt confident in my skin and that in almost any situation with any person, I could be true to myself and walk away with no baggage.
I was talking to my truest longest friend since forever, who was prego with her second child. Two Queen Bees approached us and listened to us talk. I felt good, normal. They are beautiful, fun girls who came to join the convo. But as soon as I stopped talking, they gave me a look like I was in their way, and proceeded to pull our friend I was talking to, toward them and I was suddenly looking at backs and glossy, straightened hair. I had been booted out.
I suddenly felt 11 again. Like my legs were too skinny and looked weird in my heels I loved. Like my dress fit awkwardly and that I should trash it immediately because it wasn’t a bodycon or maternity dress. Like my hair could be styled differently than the on-point curls I was so proud of. Like my face could have been arranged in a prettier, more beautiful, feminine way to be pleasing to talk to. I slunk away to my table and saw them start dancing the Wobble from the corner of my fighting-the-tears eye. And I finally realized, I’ll never be accepted, or “fit in” with those girls from parts of my history.They were everything I wasn’t at the time.
But beyond that, I had an epiphany.
It was never God’s plan for me to be like them. I was never supposed to be a Queen Bee, cheerleader, modelesque, popular, tan and forever-young-type. I became a drama-nerd, majorette, teacher, flowy-skirt-loving, westward-pioneer-emulating, worship-leading, travel-lusting, Jesus-adoring type. Hello night and day.
I prayed for confidence and peace about it from the Lord. And he told me about Ruth. In the Book of Ruth, Ruth lost her husband, his brother, and father-in-law, all in a tragic amount of time. For her mother-in-law (back then, just called “mother”), Naomi, this was her husband and two sons that had died. Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah, the other son’s wife, decided to pack up and move back to where Naomi came from, since there was nothing left for them where they currently lived. On the way there, Orpah decides to turn back, and Ruth chooses to continue on with her mother-in-law, Naomi. They arrive in Naomi’s hometown and Ruth decides to take a job harvesting grains in the local fields. These fields belong to a very prominent, kind, and important young man named Boaz. He notices Ruth working hard one day and feels compelled to take her welfare into his own hands. He moves her to a field close by where only women work, and lets her have as much as she wants of the grain she picks daily. He soon marries her and their lineage, a few generations later, leads to Jesse, from whom “a shoot, a new branch” will grow and down the linage tree, leads to Jesus being born. (Isaiah 11:1,10)
Let’s imagine how this would have been different had Ruth chosen a different path. Let’s say she turns back with Orpah and Naomi goes on alone. Or, let’s say that Ruth never chose to work in a field, and instead sat at the city gates with her mother-in-law. Boaz wold have slim chances of coming across her, or even showing favor for her. They would have never begun an epic family tree that would eventually lead to the birth of Jesus.
Ruth was faithful. Ruth was trusting. Throughout my tween, teen, and young adult years, I sometimes found it hard to find joy in being faithful. Or in being trusting. But being faithful, and being trusting, despite the momentary worth proved fruitful because I reaped so many more blessings than I would have, had I denied the truth. And the truth is that when I step into the Father’s will of who I am made to be, (the drama-nerd, majorette, teacher, flowy-skirt-loving, westward-pioneer-emulating, worship-leading, travel-lusting, Jesus-adoring type) 🙂 I know that there is purpose, goodness, and a future worth hanging on to. There is fulfillment that I never got from hanging out with the cool kids. There is satisfaction I never received from others’ approval. The ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment is the approval/blessing of God and hanging out with the coolest kid….Jesus. I’ve always believed that if I met Jesus today (or any other day) He’d say there’s always room in his group of disciples for me. 🙂
So now in my mid-20’s I have found and kept true, authentic friends that love Jesus, a husband that is always a joy to do life with, and a future that holds much fulfillment, joy, hope, and excitement as I pursue my own photography business.
Do not lose hope, tweens, preteens, and ladies. It is not the fact that we suffer that leads to Jesus, but the pursuit of being faithful to Him reaps joy and fulfillment. Your seeds have been planted, now water them. Cultivate them. Wait for them. Your blooms will grow bright and strong when God brings them forth. You are loved.