We must each learn to feel comfortable in our own uniqueness by rising above the fear of being wrong and the aversion to being different. — Iyanla Vanzant
I can remember thinking to myself many times, "If they would just tell me what they want from me, I would do it."
Fitting in has always been elusive to me. I have often felt like an observer taking this part of human interaction in. In my past I have been too independent, too creative, too multi-cultural, too out there to fully participate in something I can't seem to name.
What I can't remember is a time when I did not have an impression of who God is. It is so primary to me that I don't think I could shake it if I tried. This awareness has made me different, less dependent on what others had to be or say or do to be one the 'in' part of the inside. I look back and see that there was never possibility of fitting in. There has always been a subtle displacement about me.
Sometimes there is a dark side to this Christianity that we attempt to practice. Instead of the frayed edges of our lives getting woven into a tapestry of community, these edges get tangled in legalism, expectations, projections and conformity.
Jesus was born of a historically displaced people. While being a people of the land, their ties to specific location have always been challenged. Shepherding was one of their practices that existed way before farming. Beyond medicine and the law, being a shepherd was the most noblest practice within Jewish culture. Shepherds had such a familiarity with their flock that the sheep knew the shepherds voice. He would call them to the sheepfold, shelter of brush and briars, at night and then make his bed at the entrance, watching over them. He was the door inside, he was the gate.
In John chapters 9 and 10, Jesus drew some strong lines between Himself and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were investigating Jesus healing of a blind man on the Sabbath. After a confrontation where the Pharisees did their damage to interrogate and insult the blind man for being healed and the blind man gave it back to them, Jesus stood up to these legalists. Jesus tells them of their spiritual blindness then proceeds to remind them of their roots — the profession of shepherding — and how much closer it was to the hearts of men than these law givers were.
To give a little more context to the situation, this happened near the time of the passover. The door — a symbol of the passover — was on everyone's mind.
Jesus gets direct with them, drawing a straight line through many Jewish symbols, by stating not once but twice, "I am the door."
This straight line was to tell his followers that He himself lays down at the entrance of the sheepfold, and it is through Him alone they are saved and cared for. If someone tries to come between the intimacy He has between Him and HIs sheep, that person is a thief and a robber. It is not the law or law giver that saves, He does.
There is a yogic concept called svarupe avastatnam. It simply means: you are exactly where you are meant to be. There is and undiscovered beauty for us in this, especially when we look inside with the eyes of Christ. There is nothing he would change about us, we are perfect in his eyes of mercy. He gave us the bravery of discernment to discover this about ourselves and to live in freedom with it, no matter how much of an outsider we felt we were or how someone had limited our significance without knowing the heart.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali also talk about the subject kaivalya, or liberation. This happens by the removal of objects, or removing the coloring or weight we put on emotions, people and situations. Just as we look inside with eyes of Christ it is also important to look outside at those who require more of than who we are in Him and unknowingly attempt to steal our joy, we are responsible for recognizing with this same brave discernment that these individuals are fuel to our growth and identity in Christ. When we do not internalize these individual's actions, we can see them as part of our liberation. Jesus got his message across to His people because of the confrontation of the Pharisees. He used the friction from their arguments to feed His passion for His people and His people knew who he was because of this.
Jesus had the most conflicts in his ministry with legalists. He knew that they treat the behavior of a man before they looked into the heart of a man. They emphasized doing instead of being. There is a small earthquake happening under the surface of Christianity these days. The old constructs are no longer holding because people are coming back to the words of Christ and knowing they are accepted and loved as they are, exactly as they are meant to be — svarupe avastatnam. They are choosing to liberate themselves from the difficulty of the legalists — kaivalya — to experience their own unique individuality in Him. What may feel like the frayed edges of ourselves He is weaving into a beautiful tapestry of grace, loving-kindness and redemption.
You are accepted and loved as you are because He is the door.
Our Lord above shines down his love and it shines on you.