Hello, my name is ________ (Linkup)

Today I'm joining up with Kerrie over at Life on a Mission for a linkup called "Hello, my name is ______." If you have never heard of a linkup before, it's a coordinated posting between bloggers, who write about the same subject, then post the links on each other's blogs as a way to build community and exchange ideas. To see other bloggers' write-ups, click on the box at the bottom of the post. The "Hello" linkup is about the labels we have put on ourselves or been given by others and how Jesus redeems those labels and gives us new names.

Hello, my name is: misfit.

This is the label I give myself when I think about my life, because it's what I believe others have thought about me.

Growing up, my family chose a lifestyle that seemed radical to an awkward preteen. In sixth grade, my parents pulled me out of the private Christian school I'd attended since kindergarten and started homeschooling me. I remember crying and pleading with my parents to let me go back because the isolation I felt was overwhelming. Homeschooling meant not seeing friends every day, not being "in-the-know" about anything related to life, and always feeling like I was outside of the circle when I did see my friends, as they laughed over inside jokes and reminisced over memories I could never take part in. Gradually, I adjusted but never felt like I fully fit in.

In high school, choices I made often earned me strange looks and misunderstanding. On looking back, I think I probably overanalyzed comments others made and exaggerated my own "weirdness" in my head. I didn't play sports, which were a social cornerstone in our small town. I didn't attend prom or school dances, which I would have been able to, had I been asked. I told myself I didn't fit in, so why even try? When all my friends were busy with romantic relationships, I said I wouldn't date at all - to cover up the fact that no one had ever asked me out. When I went to a party and things happened I wasn't comfortable with, I made my opinion loud and clear, then left - and felt hurt when I wasn't invited back.

I started going to a local community college at 16, and my age, faith, and naivety set me apart in a school made up mostly of scholarship athletes from inner cities. I always felt that, whatever circle I was in, I didn't really belong. And I resented it. Although I followed Jesus out of my own choice, I resented the separation my chosen lifestyle put between me and most of my other peers. I craved their approval, to know I was liked and accepted. Even as I exited my youth and embarked on adulthood, I still had the nagging feeling that I was a misfit in whatever group I was in, always comparing myself to others and judging myself according to outward standards that probably didn't even occur to the people I was with. And I always found myself lacking.

It's been a few years since I've grown through the angst of youth, but I still hear that voice that whispers, "You just don't belong here." Now I live in a country where that feeling is made even more acute. My language, the color of my skin and hair, the small evidences of my relatively affluent Western upbringing all set me apart from my neighbors and coworkers. I feel again the otherness of who I am when people stare at me walking by and say, Look at the foreigner! as if I can't understand their words. I feel like I am a misfit in this country.

But somewhere in the past few years, God started changing my heart. He replaced "misfit" with "ACCEPTED." Accepted not because I finally look like everyone else, or because my lifestyle fits in with the culture, or even because I changed myself at all.

He has shown me that I am accepted at the cross, and I have a place in the family of God.

"But to all who believed him and accepted him, {Jesus} gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn - not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God." 
- John 1:12-13 {NLT}

The acceptance I longed for, the approval I craved from those who could never have given enough of it, has been offered to those believe in Jesus through faith.

I have been a Christian as long as I can remember, but I have only begun to understand my acceptance as a daughter of God, and how that is higher and better than any human acceptance I could earn. And it makes me at peace with living in a world that doesn't understand my choices or my lifestyle. Like the quote in my sidebar says, I should live my life in such a way that it doesn't make sense without God.

"Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith."
- Romans 3:27 {NLT}

And the amazing thing is, I don't have to do anything to earn God's acceptance. In fact, I can't earn it. It was purchased for me at the cross, and I am made acceptable by Jesus. And when He sees the cross, God says - You are accepted - not a misfit. Rest in this.

What labels has Jesus redeemed and changed in your life?

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