Where I went to high school, there were groups of kids that hung out together. There were the smart kids, the popular/athletic kids, kids who experimented with alcohol and drugs, and, my particular favorite, the misfits.
The misfits, and I counted myself one, were people who didn't really fit in any particular category. "Shunned by all, envied by none" might have been our motto, if we had been that organized a crowd. We were the ones no one sat with at lunch or whose clothes didn't readily conform to one of the other groups. It sounds lonely, but looking back, I'm glad that I was able to think of myself as an individual and act and dress in a way that expressed who I thought I was, with no pressure to conform to a certain group.
It took me a long time to realize that dressing and playing the part of a non-conformist was just another clique, not really better or worse than all the rest. What really counted was how I acted toward others.
As I reflect on my stand in high school, I gain a better perspective when I read something written by the woman who founded this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy: "Take away wealth, fame, and social organizations, which weigh not one jot in the balance of God, and we get clearer views of Principle. Break up cliques, level wealth with honesty, let worth be judged according to wisdom, and we get better views of humanity" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 239).
I wish I could say I turned to God for my sense of worth during those troubled years. How much freedom I would have found in resting my scared self in His loving arms and letting Him guide me. I was like a person in a house with all the windows and doors shut tight. The sun was shining, pouring down, ever available, but I was too stubborn to go out and bask in it. I thought I was having a good time in my dark house.
Eventually, some sad experiences turned my footsteps to higher roads. I was surprised to find that it wasn't a long journey until I found peace and felt the presence of God. The war I thought I was fighting to be who I was was not even a war in God's sunlight. In fact, I discovered a greater freedom to express my individuality as I came to understand God as the source of my intelligence, creativity, intuitive sense, and honesty.
I was judging others by stereotypes and labels as much as I thought they were judging me. When I changed my perception of others, I found myself laughing with the "in crowd" kids, sharing ideas with the "smart kids," and enjoying people in general a lot more. My prejudice against people who were older went away, and as I got to make friends with people of all ages, their experiences and knowledge enriched my life.
The Bible has many accounts of individuals who didn't conform to a particular group rebels with a cause, you might say. Daniel worshiped God instead of a large statue of the king, as everyone else was doing, and he was thrown in the lions' den. Even though he was with the lions all night, they didn't harm him or have him for dinner.
When he was younger, he'd acted as spokesman for himself and three other Hebrew boys. He told the head honcho, who was to make sure they ate properly, that they would not be eating the king's leftovers, like all the other boys in training, but that they would eat just fruit and vegetables. Because they were listening to God, not to popular demand or thought, they couldn't be touched by lions or food.
I'm learning that being who I am, turning to God for direction and inspiration, has expanded my individuality and my freedom of expression. I encourage everyone to keep up the good fight of challenging the "this is the way things have always been done" thinking and be true to yourselves. A loving God will guide you as you listen and watch for His encouraging support.
for I have redeemed thee,
I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.