Fitting In

Joan looked me up and down, the slightest traces of disdain visible in the corners of her eyes.

“That’s dorky,” she finally said.

“What?” I asked, genuinely unsure what in the world she might be referring to.

“What you’re wearing,” she replied.

Still uncertain my spouse and I were speaking the same language, I stopped and looked down to examine my attire. Black sweatpants that didn’t quite reach my ankles. Check. Red socks. Check. A worn, blue and red checked flannel shirt untucked at the waist. Check and check.

“You mean, THIS?” I asked, gesturing down toward my admittedly hastily chosen ensemble.

“Yes,” she said. “Go back and change those pants. What about a nice pair of jeans?”

After a combined 44 years of marriage experience, I have learned one absolutely essential lesson: some hills are just not worth dying on. And so, without further protest, I returned to our bedroom and changed my pants. I mean, who knows who I might run into on my quick trip to Home Depot? There might be a casting director for a locally produced documentary on fashionable 60+ Fort Collinsites (???) lurking there in the plumbing aisle.

To be completely up front with you, I am not utterly clueless when it comes to dressing myself. More often than not, I try to make sure that my socks and shirt are at least in the same color family.

That studied nonchalance is a marked contrast from my earlier years. For longer than I care to admit, I was a guy who expended a lot of mental energy worrying about how I measured up in the eyes of people around me.

My “conforming concerns” extended far beyond the realm of wardrobe. Yes, I worried not only about WEARING the right things, but also about SAYING the right things, THINKING the right things, and FEELING the right things. 

Back then, my chief concern was figuring out how to fit in well with the world around me… a concern that led to a great deal of heartache and anxiety. Sadly, I look around and see that that same heartache and anxiety plagues a large swath of the population today.

Growing older did a lot to help ease those worries. Getting married and not having to worry about my visual “curb appeal” helped, too. But do you know what helped calm my conformity cares more than anything else? 

A living, breathing relationship with The One Who Made Me. The One who said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden [especially with the imagined judgments of others] and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). The One who pointed out that, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matthew 10:29). It is the same One who commanded me, for the sake of my own mental and spiritual health that I should “… not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). 

Today I see the extraordinary pressure that children and young adults feel as they try to measure up to standards that are forever shifting, changing, moving, and growing and my heart breaks for them. 

I pray that each of us – but especially the young and most vulnerable among us – might be able to look into the kind, brown eyes of Jesus and hear him whisper, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NRSV). 

Abundant blessings;

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