Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
As I drove home from work this past week, I saw a cluster of black birds together on a billboard. There must have been at least 50. Right as I drove past, one bird got up from the crowd and flew away into the distance. People and especially Christians have to do this sometimes. We have to look around us, and although everyone seems to be on board with something, we have to be ready and willing to go our own way. God calls His people to be set apart from the world. This does not mean He calls us to be alone, though we must be content in being alone if it comes down to it. His purpose is for us to be a light, an example. This means being able to do and say things that may make us look weird and being ok with not being on trend. We must embrace “not fitting in”.
When I was a child, my mom used to enter me in beauty pageants. In a sea of blonde haired, blue eyed little girls in pastel dresses, there I was in my bright red dress and black hair. I always won first place, not because I was the most beautiful or the most talented, but because I stood out from the crowd. As a young child, I couldn’t comprehend the value of being unique. My parents named me Kamille. As if the name Kamille itself wasn’t unusual enough, they decided to spell it with a “K”, making it even more rare. This, in a sense, was teaching me from a very young age the beauty of being different. Of course, as a child, all I wanted was to be like everyone else. It wasn’t until I grew into a young lady that I began to appreciate and eventually love my name. In fact, I don’t think they could have chosen a better one.
I switched schools in the 4th grade, and I struggled making friends. I begged my parents to let me go back to my other school, but they were adamant about me staying. Everyone already had their cliques, having known each other from kindergarten, and I simply didn’t fit in. At 10 years old, I still played with dolls, and these girls were much more mature. I vividly remember having an arts and crafts day at school not long after starting. I sat in my desk and squirted the glue on to my paper. I then took my little fingers and began to spread the glue around the paper so that the glue would be evenly distributed. A classmate looked over at what I was doing and then immediately blurted out my teacher’s name to tell her I was making a mess. The teacher looked over at my desk and then in my eyes and saw I was ashamed. I just knew at that moment I was about to be in trouble. She smiled warmly, continuing to look in my eyes as if she were responding to me instead of my classmate, and said, “I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. In fact, I think it’s rather ingenious.” I’ll never forget that. It taught me more than anything else I could have ever learned in the 4th grade. It taught me the importance of encouraging children to go their own way.
The cool thing about being your authentic, God-created self, is that it is a plan designed by God Himself to drive out the wrong people or inspire those people to be better. This doesn’t always happen overnight, though. You may very well endure ridicule, mockery, and even violence for being true to yourself. The truth is, though, it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you aren’t. Remember that testing of your faith produces steadfastness and steadfastness produces character. Your character is you. It cannot be taken from you without your consent.
I work with children who have special needs, and they remind me on a daily basis the beauty of being different. I guess you could say “being different” has been a pattern in my life. When I first started out at my job a little over a year ago, I was the only Caucasian nurse. Although that has since changed, that’s the way things were for almost a whole year. I didn’t budge. I knew God had planted me there for a reason—I knew my working there was in itself a symbol of peace. By choosing to stay put, I was proving that love conquers fear—fear of being different, fear of not fitting in, fear of being the target of racism—love conquers all.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to love someone that you have a whole lot in common with? We love those we relate to easier than those we don’t, because in loving people similar to us, we are being taught to love ourselves. Sometimes, though, God gives us an opportunity to love someone very different from ourselves. The less we love ourselves, the more difficult that will be.
Sometimes God purposely puts us in places where we don’t fit in. If everyone fit in everywhere they went, no one would grow. We would miss out on the spiritual growth that comes from learning to love those different from ourselves, and we also wouldn’t be able to be a light to others that need us. When we are in a situation where we cannot easily relate to others, we may be tempted to run, to fight it, to go where we feel understood and as if we belong. God wants us to seek to understand others more than we seek to be understood.
My hope is that you will never be afraid to go your own way, even if no one else follows, and prayerfully, the next time you feel the urge to run away and search in discontentment for the path of least resistance, you will ask the Lord to help you bloom where you’ve been planted, embracing your differences.