How to Feel In — Instead of Always Feeling Like An Outsider

“I’m just sick of being the least important person at the table.” Jerusha Clark was struck by this statement made by her teenage daughter after school one day. We’ve all experienced a time when we’ve felt left out, excluded, and less than “good enough.” Jerusha reveals how God never meant for us to focus on whether we are “enough,” whether we measure up in our own eyes or in the eyes of others. He made us—every piece of us—to be just as He is. Jerusha discovered this while exploring Jesus’s seven powerful “I am” statements recorded in the Gospel of John. We welcome Jerusha to the farm’s front porch as she shares the rest of the story…

guest post by Jerusha Clark

“I’m just sick of being the least important person at the table.”

My remarkably perceptive teenage daughter sighed heavily, tossed her backpack in the trunk of our Explorer, and slammed the passenger door.

Though I’m a woman accustomed to using words to sort out my thoughts and feelings, though I’d taught my daughters to make sense of life with words from the time they began uttering sounds, in this instance I was struck utterly dumb.

My vibrant, intelligent girl . . . the least important person at the lunch table? Why? How? Where can I get hold of these foolish teenage girls who are hurting my baby?

And why in the world did memories of being picked last, not getting invited to that party, and overhearing whispering “friends” who quickly stopped talking when I walked up swim into my consciousness? Wasn’t I over all that nonsense?

I picked my other daughter up from middle school some time later. Hot tears glistened in her blue eyes. When I asked, “Is there something wrong?” I got the immediate “It’s nothing . . .” response.

Not buying it, I pressed in: “Please tell me what happened . . .”

That’s all it took to burst the dam of tears and tension.

“Savannah doesn’t even talk to me, Mom. Every day she says hi and gives a hug to everyone else in our group, but she acts like I don’t even exist. I’m already on the outside because I don’t play soccer. I don’t know why she doesn’t like me. It’s like I’m invisible and it just hurts . . . a lot.”

I wished so much I could take away my daughters’ pain.

I hoped I could give them some encouragement. I knew I could pray for and with them. I absolutely trusted that God would walk them through these heartaches, just as he had done with me through the agonizing years of adolescence.

At the same time, I was uncomfortably aware of one thing I could not do—tell them that it would be totally different when they became adults.

Women can be downright mean.

And I’m not excluding Christian ladies from that statement. Some of the most exclusive cliques I’ve come across are those in Bible study and church circles. There’s nothing quite like being rejected by women who claim to love “the least of these.”

To some extent, you and I and all people yearn for acceptance and approval.

Some mask this desire with a gruff, “I couldn’t care less” exterior; others numb it by being cold and cruel.

But most of us, and women almost invariably more so than our male counterparts, spend exorbitant amounts of time and energy trying to make relationships work.

I used to believe that wanting to fit in was strictly a negative thing.

As a Christian, I reasoned, only God’s opinion should matter; what other people think should have no bearing on how I feel or what I do. While there is wisdom in thoughts like these, the truth is more complex than this kind of “all or nothing” paradigm allows.

God created us for relationship, both with Him and with others. Fellowship is an eternal reality designed by our loving Father, an original glory that predates the fall.

When I cross over, I will not be in an individual heaven populated only by the Holy Trinity and myself; neither will you.

Instead, we will dwell forever in perfect unity with people from every tribe and every nation.

Every single one of us will be eternally “in.” If you ask me, that sounds pretty good.

Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Jesus speaks these words after performing a miracle that incensed some and amazed others.

In John 9, He heals a man born blind. Furious at Jesus’s rising popularity and undeniable power, the religious leaders vow “that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22).

The Greek word used here, aposynagōgos, is a compound verb connoting excommunication. Don’t imagine this means, “You can’t come to church here; try the one two miles away.”

This term indicates absolute exclusion from the social and spiritual fellowship of the community. “Cast out,” “cut off,” and “abandoned” would be appropriate synonyms.

To these people, at this moment, Jesus declares, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9 NASB).

In essence, Jesus told the excluders and haters, “You cannot stand in the way. I am the way in, and whoever I receive has complete access, total freedom.

To every woman who has been on the outside, anyone who’s felt rejected and judged, Jesus proclaims today,

“With me, you’re always in.

Come; find freedom in Me.

Be strengthened by what I provide and go back out into the world, confident in who I’ve made you to be.

You may come back in any time you like —  for the door is always open to those who are Mine.”

 

Jerusha Clark is the author or coauthor of several books on spiritual growth, women’s issues, marriage, and mental health, including the bestselling Every Thought Captive, and Your Teenager Is Not Crazy (coauthored with her husband, Dr. Jeramy Clark). She also enjoys teaching at churches, retreats, schools, and conferences. 

In, Every Piece of Me: Shattering Toxic Beliefs and Discovering the Real You, Jerusha Clark invites women to join her in embracing the life and truth of Jesus’s seven powerful “I am” statements recorded in the Gospel of John. She invites women to join her in embracing the life and truth of these words, relishing the freedom of an identity fixed on Christ alone while leaving behind fear, bitterness, busyness, and toxic thoughts that steal our joy and limit our power.

[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]

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