Fitting in

For years, despite his best efforts, a young man had struggled to find his place in the order of things. Then he got some advice that prompted him to consider things from a spiritual perspective – an approach that made all the difference.

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Growing up, I tried to be many things – class clown, athlete, great student – but none of them really seemed to stick. It wasn’t a popularity thing – I had friends – but I felt as though there was some place I ought to be occupying in the order of things, and I just couldn’t find it. This uncertainty about my “fit” persisted through most of my college career as well and affected my schoolwork, self-care, and relationships.

I am a prayerful person, and this was true back then as well, but I didn’t feel I knew how to pray about this abstract issue. I even felt a little ashamed and thought that maybe I needed to find my fit before I could effectively commune with God.

Then, at the beginning of my fourth year of college, I participated in a study abroad program for my art major. After the academic part ended, I was going to spend a few more weeks abroad, so I asked well-traveled friends of mine for tips.

The best tip I got? To spend time looking for what I could give, rather than what I could get. The idea was that it would enable me to appreciate what people were giving to me, whereas if I only considered what I could get, then I’d also be concerned about what people were trying to take from me. Well, this change in perspective and approach affected the whole scope of my travel. For the first time, I felt that I did indeed fit in, wherever I went.

All I can say is that travel tip not only shaped my trip, it also revamped my entire sense of where my life’s focus needed to be. It wasn’t that I’d been an ungiving person before, but my hyperfocus and concern about my fit also caused me to focus inordinately on what I might personally gain from any situation I was in, instead of what I might contribute. Now, I felt that I had a fresh start – a gift-wrapped opportunity to try a new way of thinking.

The call for that kind of fresh thinking was very much a part of the ministry of Christ Jesus. He urged his listeners to rethink things on a very deep level. He shared this message: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

It seems clear from Jesus’ example that this isn’t saying, “Shape up, bozos! The God-police are coming!” I think of it more like, “Heaven is here! God’s goodness and harmony, and your place in God’s kingdom, are already established. If you can’t see it, change your direction.” Jesus’ further elaborations throughout his ministry on the two great commandments – to love God, and to love our neighbors as ourselves – showed us all how to repent, how to change where we are seeking our sense of place by looking beyond what we see with our eyes to glimpse the spiritual reality.

Using “Love” as a Bible-based synonym for God, Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, said, “Love is reflected in love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 17). And there’s a beautiful line in the “Christian Science Hymnal” that says, “Love’s work and Love must fit” (Mary Alice Dayton, No. 51). As the reflections of Love, the work of God, as the Bible declares, we must all fit. None of God’s children is without a place.

And in our daily lives, we find a more satisfying fit not through trying to sync with a particular social strata or finding a particular role, but by intentionally living with and in Love, showing what God’s love is like by reflecting it toward others. There is always room for Love to be expressed.

These ideas continue to be a beacon for me. I’ve found that when I put love for God and a divinely impelled love for others first instead of trying to force my own way, I find an authentic sense of fitting in as well.

When God made us, He knew exactly what He was doing. Sometimes things in our lives, or our place in the world, may not seem to make sense. But when we stop looking at things from a material perspective to try to find our way, and lean in to a deeper sense of our innate capacity to love, we’ll find how deeply loved and perfectly placed we are.

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