As a kid I had the luxury of marching to the drum of my own beat. I was natural a nerd, excelling in honors classes as one of two persons of color in most of my classes and stuffing my nose in a book whenever I got the chance. The benefit of this, was that I ended up at a prestigious four-year university with a sparkling degree in business. The drawback, was that I had no friends. There were many a mornings when, to avoid the bullying/teasing/rejection of my middle school peers I hid out in the foyer, engrossing my mind in worlds of words that did not consist of my own. Worlds that offered acceptance and adventure and. Well. Friendship.
I told a close friend who had been sticking like eco gel to my side for the last 20 years that I really had no friends before her and a slew of other sisters came a long. She gasped as if this was news to her. It wasn’t. But I think because of the way that I put it, it hit her in a new way.
Even though those parties of 1 in the foyer were, what I now call, “The Lonely Years” what I’m proud of about myself was that I still didn’t compromise my identity and character, even at the impressionable age of 10. When offered opportunities to conform to the mold and join the ruckus behavior of the popular kids, I declined. Choosing instead to fall back and hang out with the “less desirables”. I wasn’t one to trade identity for fleeting acceptance. Even back then.
In my adulthood I find it incredible that the same type of exclusivity that ran rampant in my middle school corridors nearly 20 years ago often still rears its ugly head in various social settings today. I admit, even though I’ve been a participating citizen in my city for over 15 years now, its like I was participating from afar. Tucked inside my hub of a safe, loving community I was healed from past trauma for several years. They were a nest and a haven God used before launching me out into the greater Cleveland area. Now that I am launched, my eyes are being opened.
The Black community has so many gifts to offer. First and foremost, there’s the “swag” factor. Yes, maybe other communities have their own version of “flyness” but no one rocks it the way we can. We are naturally a smooth, dope, “lit” group of people who can always be counted on to get the party started.
Then there’s our hair. I mean, come on. Who can don the styles we can and accurately set the trend in the way that we do?
And of course, there’s our rhythm. Now. I know these are all stereotypes. Let’s be honest. Not everyone with brown skin and kinky hair has rhythm. But those of us that do, just cannot be touched. I’m just saying…
But no community is without its flaws and one that I’ve been the brunt of is this perceived “lesser than” attitude that tends to emerge in many of our subgroups. I’ve been told “Cleveland is clickish” from several, especially from those who are not from here. My eyes slightly widen as confusion swirls in my mind while processing this newfound information. “Sure, we are a rough bunch on the outside, but there’s a hidden jewel glistening brightly underneath all that coal!” would be my response. I never thought of myself as an optimist but clearly there’s some bright shiny rose-colored glasses lying around in my bedroom somewhere. Anyone from my city reading the prior statement knows it.
Even if you aren’t from my city, or ethnic group, maybe you still resonate with the self-perceived haughtiness that clouds the air of some social gatherings. You walk into a room searching for a friend, but your eager, rabid search comes up empty. You join a small group where they discuss a topic that interests you but don’t address your comments when you try to contribute. You make your attempts at engaging others into dialogue at the break in your workout class and they pretend not to notice.
[Tweet “No matter how you spin it, it sucks to be excluded.”]
Even when you’re almost 40 and have friends in droves and love overflowing in every corner of your life. We were designed for community, and we are hurt when our attempts are not well received.
I’m reminded of Yeshua who faced so much rejection from His community. Over and over He was shunned, excluded and told that He was a demon, or crazy because of His teachings. The cool thing about Him was that He still marched to the drum of His own beat, turning over the money tables in the temples and crying out, “You have turned my Father’s house into a den of thieves!” (Mathew 21:13) He lashed right back out at his accusers, letting them know that they in fact, were the devils.
I received a word that “When they reject You Nicole, they reject Him”. Wow. I was shocked to know that I could be that close to God that when others rejected me, they were rejecting Him in me. I often forget that He is not just walking with us, He is actually abiding in us.
I think in the world we often have it backwards. Christ told us that in order to live forever we need to lose our lives and that those who are exalted in the kingdom are lowly here on earth. I think Michelle Obama hit the nail on the head when she said, “When they go low, we go high.” That is the sentiment of the culture of the kingdom. Our world exalts certain people, esteeming them for glossy, fleeting characteristics, (such as “the cool factor”) yet our God esteems us for what is lasting: Our character. Our intent. Our heart.
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Remember that when they snub their noses at you, they’re actually snubbing Him. Then immerse yourself in the warm, oozing affection of those who value you the way that He does. With unconditional love and acceptance to be the nerdy, quirky, offbeat, marching to your own beat, self. Just the way that He made you.
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