When You Don’t Quite Fit In: Eradicating The Fear of “Other”

community Faith Grace

It’s often hard for me to fit into circles because I’m not brave enough, Latina enough, writerly enough, motherly enough, socially conscious enough, and sometimes not Christian enough. What? Is there such a thing as not Christian enough?

I’ve been around too many all-inclusive Christian groups. If I wasn’t following very specific rules, I was not welcome. One of these groups did not allow it’s congregants to hold hands. It was impure to entertain this sexualized behavior of touching.

There was another group which didn’t allow room for grace. One strike and I was out. It wasn’t verbalized, but I sensed it when I was no longer invited to some of the meetups. It was the beginning of a gradual progression to phase me out until I was.

I felt full of sin and unable to engage with other believers in a meaningful and productive way. This made me feel dirty. Sinful. That one word sounded like a scarlet letter ready to be sewn onto my clothes with the brightest red thread imaginable. Hello, fire and brimstone!

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Maybe they felt I would tarnish something that was genuine and pure. And because of this, I felt like the “other.” I started to identify with outsider, the lukewarm Christian, renegade social justice Christian, but in the real world, I was not even close to renegade. I know some folks. 😉

When I joined the church again, I remained mindful and kept an open heart for those who felt like they didn’t belong. I gravitated toward those who didn’t feel they had what it took to even want to go to church. I hung(hang) around with those who could care two cents about church, and it’s “organized religiosity”. I hear them. I get it.

I’m not feeble enough in my walk that I can’t hear them and acknowledge them. I was there too. God’s got us. 

The church can quickly make anyone feel like an outsider whether intentional or not. Church was never intended to do that because Jesus was the walking embodiment of church.

Now, leaving church is not an option for me because church isn’t four walls, but the body I inhabit and the circle(s) I orbit around.

Our togetherness is a rough sketch of heaven embodied on earth.

It is unhealthy to our church body to shun what we don’t comprehend. It behooves us to open ourselves up to what is unfamiliar and begin to bridge divides.

I have a lot of work to do in bridge building. The bridge goes both ways, you see.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matthew 5:6

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Here are a few ways to open our hearts and our world to healing:

  • Be present

Be all in. Be all there. Nothing more and nothing less than being a person who is available to receive or to give in that moment.

  • Visit another neighborhood

Barriers of fear and “other” are broken when we reach into each other’s communities to lend a helping hand. Don’t just show up on Saturdays for an hour or two. Show up! Eat in restaurants which aren’t in your neighborhood, support local. Many stereotypes are shattered when we actively engage in each other’s neighborhoods.

  • Listen

When we listen to each other, the first action we have to take is to BE QUIET (this is not easy for me by any stretch of the imagination – but prayer). This is the only way, we can truly listen.

Quiet your thoughts, quiet your tongue, quiet your judgment. Just listen. When someone is done speaking, always reiterate with, “So what I understand from what you just said is___.” Listen to understand instead of listening to react.

  • Leave your judgment at the door

Who? Me? No matter how humble and awesome we think we are, we fall short daily. I do. More often than not we have a preconceived notion of what something or someone will be like way before we ever meet them. I’ve been there and boy did I bite my tongue on that one.

If God can extend grace, we should too. If God could walk around being a church to everyone whether you followed him or not, we can too.

What are some fears of “other” you are learning to letting go?

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Linked to Lisha Epperson’s Give Me Grace.

Linked to Three Word Wedneday.

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