I'm an outcast. "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." - John 15:19As humans, we can all identify with the plight of being an outcast. No one is ever fully accepted all the time. So, everyone suffers rejection. Some rejection just comes with life. For example, not getting the job you wanted and applied for. Or not getting in to the college program you desired, not making the football team...
Outcast. The Oxford American Dictionary defines this word as:
noun - a person who has been rejected by society or a social group.
adjective - rejected or cast out. Made to feel outcast and inadequate.
If you look Outcast up in the thesaurus, you'll find the following words used: pariah, reject, black sheep, outsider and leper.
Life is full of rejection. And rejection is painful. No one wakes up in the morning and desires to be the outcast. Being an outcast is a negative thing that no one really wants. You don't want to be the loner, the outcast or the throw away person. But, sometimes, you just are. And when you're there, you question why. What did you do to deserve being treated this way? And ultimately, you start to question your worth.
I picked this shirt because the word Outcast identifies in some ways, to how I'm feeling right now. It's something that other people have made me because I don't fit their mold. You see, I've been asked to do some things that takes guts, strength, ambition and leadership. Often times, when you're a leader and asked to swim up stream and do something different than the norm or outside the box, you find confrontation. Many people don't like different. They don't want what they have always known to be challenged. And, many people find it hard to think there might just be more to God, than the little bubble they have placed the Lord in.
Those of you who have been readers for awhile, will know that Jeremiah is my favorite prophet. He had the inner strength and the guts to stand up for what he felt was right and for what God was calling him to do, irregardless of the scorn he would receive from others. He challenged the status quo; the robotic set of beliefs of those around him. He was willing to redefine the parameters of God abilities by questioning the validity of social construct. I'm not saying that I come anywhere close to Jeremiah, but I'd like to strive to be that way. To be willing to stand up for what I believe in even if it means there is a painful cost.
I see this kind of determination in our Savior Jesus. He was willing to be unpopular, disliked, an outcast. He was willing to walk alone. He was willing to suffer in many ways so that the truth and the light could be revealed and salvation received. Jeremiah and Jesus, were not the only ones to have done this up stream swimming. What about Martin Luther King? Can you think of some others who might have been willing to stir the pot on the hope of social justice?
Then I wonder what is wrong with us and people who have all suffered from rejection and being made outcast. What is wrong with those of us who know the pain, to turn around and cause or inflict the same pain on other people? At what point did you find yourself so prideful as to think that you are better than someone else? That you are anointed to outcast others in your hateful judgement and ignorance? We often don't even realize the damage we do to others before its too late. We ignore people that we don't think are worthy of are time. We mistreat people, even as Christians, who we don't think are good enough...and yet do we ever take a moment to stop and think that that was never the role God gave us? He told us to love others not hate them and yet we act out in hate on a daily basis.
It's appalling really and then we wonder why our children treat others with such disregard for respect and common courtesy.
I want to stress though, that there is always hope. As an outcast, I know that I'm not alone. I know that the things God has called me to do are not going to be easy. I know they are going to take an extreme level of inner strength and peace. Don't be afraid of being in the world, be cautious of being of it. If God has called you to do something, don't walk away from it. Embrace it. God is not going to ask you to do something that you know is going to be challenging and then leave you alone. It's so easy to feel like following God will make you an outcast. It will. You will have to live to a different standard, one that many won't understand and further mock. You'll be teased and made fun of, misunderstood and rejected. But...if you are diligent and put your faith in God, he will heal all of that.
I have found since following my calling, that friends I once had, I have no longer. Not because they are bad people, but because they don't understand my love for Christ because they don't have it. More often than not, I find that these people don't want to be around me anymore, because doing so makes them feel badly about themselves and how they live their lives. So the rejection is of me but is not my fault. However, I have also made new friends. Wonderful, loving and supportive friends. Some of my family has rejected me and some have become closer. During the time that I tried to run from God, my marriage suffered. Now, for the first time in five years, my marriage is better than it has ever been.
No, its not easy being an Outcast, but its not necessarily permanent either. You can't make everyone like you no matter how hard you try. What you can do is make sure you like yourself. Find your worth not in the world or what the world thinks of you, but in God and what God thinks of you. If you have a calling from God, whatever it may be, follow it. Don't hold back out of fear of rejection from those who love you. Rejection will always be there...but so will God. Don't let the world keep you from doing God's work in whatever capacity God is asking you to do it. Plus, if there is one thing I have learned, it is that God is persistent. If God's calling you today, you can ignore him, but he'll call you again and again and again and again. Eventually you're going to have to answer. Put your faith in the one thing that has never abandoned you and that is not the world. Be brave and willing to be an outcast for a little bit. God will take care of you and things will always get better. And lastly, when things do get tough and you feel the world is crashing in on you, that's when you need to be the strongest and refuse to give up. Brighter days are ahead.
When God called Mary to do carry and give birth to Jesus, she became an outcast. When Joseph stayed with Mary when she told him she was pregnant, he became an outcast. Can you imagine if Joseph and Mary would have listened to the people around them rather than the voice of God? What if Jeremiah had ignored God and followed the rulers of the land? What if Moses would have refused God's call? Or John? Or Isaiah? Or Abraham? Or Daniel? Or Hosea? Or Ruth? What if your pastor had said no to the call of God? Or your Sunday School teachers? What if you would have said no when you were called to claim Christ as your Savior?
Sometimes the biggest price is paid when we choose to take the "easy" way and say no to God, rather than to face the road less traveled and say yes. Just look in your Bible. God has called a lot of impractical people to do impossible things. God asked people to do things that were so outrageous they are hard for us to fathom even today. What about the wise men? Did you know that they were endangering their lives to follow that star to bring gifts to the baby Jesus? They were in great danger. But they were willing to follow that star in order to be with God.
Are you willing to follow that star to be in the presence of Christ?