This past weekend I attended homecoming at Howard University for the first time since graduation (c/o 2010). It was like a walk down memory lane. Overall it was a good trip, but it brought back some not so great memories. While I was walking around at events with my two good friends, I noticed how many people they knew and that were happy to see them. On the other hand, I didn't know very many people at all, even though we all went to the same school at the same time. I did run into a few people I knew very well at one point, but the friendship ended on bad terms years ago. That was pretty awkward. I really only made a two lasting connections in college. But everyone else seems to really have a ton of friends and associates. They were talking about memories and experiences that I was not apart of. I felt left out. And this isn't my first time feeling like that.
My entire life I have always felt like an outsider. This dates back to middle school for me. I never quite fit in with any group. I never seemed to make the cheerleading squad or fit in with any sorority. I always had difficulties doing things that every one else did. I was always the prude or judgmental friend simply because I did not want to participate in some activities. So my immature solution was, if I can't beat them join them. Everyone else was having sex, excessively drinking, stealing, cursing, dressing provocatively, etc. and I wanted to be their friend so I just decided to do what they were doing. I just wanted to fit in.
I wanted to be like everyone else. But even with my extreme efforts of trying to turn myself into someone I was not, I still could never seem to hold on to the friendships I was trying so desperately to have. No matter what I did, people did not value me the way I valued them. I was willing to give up who I was, to be accepted by them. But as soon as I tried to be the real Janelle, the friendship would explode in my face. This happened to me several times, with different groups of people. And it hurt each time.
But the problem wasn't them. It was me. I was the one pretending to be someone I wasn't. Not in a fake way. But in a desperate to fit in kind of way. I wanted to be accepted so bad, that I was willing to be someone other than myself just to fit in. Now don't get me wrong, these so called friends definitely mistreated me. But if I had recognized the beauty in just being Janelle, I would have never put myself in a situation to be mistreated in the first place.
Psalms 139:13-16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. "
God created each of us on purpose, for a specific purpose. He was intentional about it. Our personalities, how we think, our emotions, the way we look, our talents, etc. aren't by coincidence. God spent time making us each uniquely. This beautiful, uniqueness is to be used to serve God. To fulfill a purpose he had in mind when he was making us. When we try to just 'fit in' by changing, disguising, or acting outside of who we really are, we are operating out of Gods will. God needs us to be the people we already are. But if we are busy trying to be someone else, we can't be used by him.
Growing up I thought there was something wrong with having personal standards and morals. Most of my 'friends' made me feel bad about it. So I swept them under the rug. But those standards were really convictions from God. He had placed on my heart that it was not ok to do certain things. I was ignoring God to hold on to people. What should have happened, was for me to realize those people were not really my friends. If me doing what I felt was right was a problem for them, then that is a clear indication that they had no place in my life. And fitting in with them shouldn't have been a concern of mine. It took me until I was an adult to realize that everybody doesn't need to be my friend. People's opinion of me DO NOT MATTER. Its Gods opinion I should have been concerned with. But because I could not let go of those friendships on my own, God removed them for me. He knew they were a distracting me from him.
It is said that many Christians who are living their life for God, don't fit in with others in the world. They feel lonely and misunderstood. I believe that is true to a certain extent. I did go through a phase of loneliness. God stripped me of all the people who were not beneficial to my life. And I felt alone. That forced me to turn to him. I befriended Jesus. I started caring more about his approval than the approval of my peers. I depend on God to fill the void of loneliness. And in return God restored what was was lost. He gave me some amazing friends, some new and even rekindled some old ones. These friends are a lot like me and love me for who I am. They are spiritual. They encourage me. We can pray, talk, laugh, vent, cry, celebrate, and hold each other accountable. They celebrate my Janelle-ness. Exactly what I had been longing for my entire life. And all I had to do was give my worries to Jesus. He gave me what I wanted all along, only it turned out to be better than I ever expected. I thank God for my friends everyday.