Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain. C.S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory
I transferred to my new high school a month after the school year had started. Uprooted, (literally) two months prior by hurricane Andrew, I’d spent the very beginning of the school year attending a temporary school, while we waited for military moving orders.
I was the quintessential “new kid”. Coming from a very small private school to this (much larger) public high school was a most unexpected and somewhat fear-filled transition. (Did I mention we’d just lost virtually everything we owned in a natural disaster of record proportions?).
It’s safe to say, I entered this new social arena already battling the clutches of fear. I was in every way, an outsider.
New state, new house, new stuff, new school–no friends.
I wandered through the maze of halls surrounded by circles of kids I didn’t know, living lives I couldn’t relate to. Though my military upbringing had schooled me in the art of quick assimilation, high school is hostile territory at best, and for the new kid–it’s a virtual minefield of potentially embarrassing interactions.
I wanted to simultaneously hide and find my place within one of these social circles.
While reading C. S. Lewis’s, The Weight Of Glory, his essay, The Inner Ring, struck me like a sucker-punch in the gut.
I’m not proud to say that during certain seasons of my life, I have hungered to be inside of certain social circles. Often, these were not necessarily circles I have been explicitly shut out of, but rather ones that are well established and grooved with the familiarity.
I’ve been both granted and denied entry into these various rings.
Amongst bloggers there exists these inner rings of small, somewhat exclusive communities. Most of them, I would say, developed naturally (as rings do), where people with common theology and interests gravitate towards each other sharing their vulnerabilities and lives in detail.
C.S. Lewis notes that inner rings are “certainly unavoidable”, and that “it is (in itself) a good thing that personal friendship should grow between those who work together”.
To this I am sure, we can all nod our heads in agreement.
The struggle we face, is our own personal desires to be included within the ring. It is possible (ahem) to let the desire to be included eclipse the calling as Christians to love one another.
The trouble comes when in pursuit of the inner ring, we are tempted (and many times do) compromise who we are and what we believe in order to cross the barriers.
In high school the rings were clearly defined: the cheerleaders, the jocks, the band “nerds” (forgive me–I married one), the “grunge” crowd, the promiscuous girls, the preppy kids, and so on.
I didn’t fit in with any of these groups, and so the temptation to make compromises ensued. Lewis warns,
Of all the passions the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things. The Weight Of Glory
We’re all adults now, free to make choices without having to answer to our parents–but what about heavenly Father? We are still accountable to Him.
The best way to guard against the desire to be inside of one of these elusive rings is, first, to get honest with ourselves about what it is we actually want.
We should ask ourselves:
Am I lonely?
Is this unchecked ambition?
Is this about glorifying God or myself?
My occasional hunger for a different inner ring springs up when I am feeling most vulnerable and spiritually weak. My desire to be a part of that group comes when I feel unnoticed, or irrelevant. But the truth is, Jesus has called me friend (John 15:15 Esv) (In my head I hear that old spiritual, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”). This is not a trite statement. Jesus CALLS US, FRIEND. How’s that for being a part of an inner ring?
Here’s the truth: No VIP access to any worldly inner ring will fill the void of a heart that doesn’t know it is known by Jesus. (<–Why don’t you go ahead and tweet that puppy)
We are already within our own inner rings–and friends, the inner ring you are in is not an accidental happenstance. God places specific people in our lives for specific reasons and seasons.
Whatever online community your staring down with longing in your heart, let me say this, let it go.
Pursue God. Pray for His guidance into the community of His choosing for you.
Chances are, you are already in it.
C.S. Lewis concludes this magnificent essay with this:
And if in your spare time, you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside, that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental,…for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things they like. This is friendship.
You already belong, sister. Right where you are.
Embrace your community. We ‘re right here with you.