I Don't Fit In
Last week, my job had a program in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage month. Our agency holds these type of events often to acknowledge nationally recognized months (Women's History, Black History, LGBT History, Native American Heritage, etc.) They usually feature guest speakers, but recently, the agency has made efforts to make the events more creative and interactive.
Yesterday's event featured employees within our agency. One guy sang hit songs from Bollywood movies. Another guy performed a hip-hop break dance routine to the song "Dance Like Michael Jackson." It was an artistic expression of his view of growing up as an Asian American. A lady, who was a former employee and a professional singer, sang some selections as well. Needless to say, I was having a pretty good time. It's not every day that I can go to work and get a free performance while getting paid for it. I'm not a big secular music guy or songs I can't understand the words to guy, but It was a harmless cultural expression and all in good fun. That was until the last presentation.
The MC announced that the last presenter would be leading the audience in a group yoga meditation. As soon as I decided to let my hair down a little and enjoy the moment, that's when the record scratched. I was thinking to myself, "Wow, this is not what I signed up for." I won't go into detail about yoga and it's origins here (feel free to look it up), but yoga is a spiritual practice that contradicts my faith as a follower of Christ. As a born again believer, I see things through a spiritual lens and to practice yoga would not only disobey the Lord, but also invite a host of unwanted spirits.
So, now I am sitting there in an awkward bind, with very little time to make a decision - What do I do?! I certainly knew I didn't want to participate. So, I figured that I only had two options: I could silently protest in my chair and stomach my way through, or I could leave at the risk of appearing rude or causing a scene. Well... you know what they say; When you gotta go, you gotta go! So, I looked at my phone as if something came up and quietly moseyed my way on outta there. I hated leaving someone's presentation, but what was I to do? As I stated above, that's not what I signed up for... or was it?
| In the World - Not of It |
Even though that was awkward and unexpected, the truth is that this is the reality of being in the world, but not of the world. As a believer, there will be times where you simply don't fit in. There will be things your coworkers want to do that will challenge your convictions. There will be activities and conversations where you will not feel comfortable participating. I love my coworkers dearly, but they are a very lively and pagan bunch that goes all out for all holidays. That wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that I don't celebrate some of the major holidays (for spiritual reasons). Therefore, I know what it feels like to have people walking around the office with candy yelling "trick or treat!" Meanwhile, I am sitting at my desk trying to figure out how I'm going to tell them I don't celebrate Halloween. I know what it feels like to have the office round up everyone to play an Easter egg hunt game and I know the spiritual history behind the Easter bunny. In these moments, I usually end up "taking my break" instead of being bold and unashamed about my convictions.
Listen, I grew up celebrating these holidays just like many other people. I understand that people come from all different backgrounds and belief systems. Heck, the very same day of the yoga fiasco, my coworker was telling me how he was fasting for Ramadan. I believe I have enough wisdom to know how to relate to people and still be respective of their lifestyles, but that doesn't make these moments any less awkward for me internally.
When I got back to my cubicle after the yoga fiasco, I wondered if there were any other Christians in that room. I also wondered if they participated and if they were convicted about it. Some may have known better but wanted to be a team player. Some may be completely ignorant of the spiritual implications. I actually participated in a yoga demonstration at my old church when I was an ignorant, baby Christian. There are even mega churches that are embracing these practices. This may seem insignificant, but Hosea 4:6 says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."
The bigger picture is the societal push for religious tolerance and coexistence between all religions. That's fair. However, it's one thing to ask me to respect someone's beliefs, and a completely different thing to spring a yoga session on me unexpectedly. This minor yoga situation serves as a microcosm of the larger realty that Christianity cannot genuinely coexist with other religions. Christianity is clear that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to the God and eternal life. By default, this disqualifies every other religion from being valid. It also disqualifies believers from receiving other religious as truth. We can love you, respect you, honor you, value you, and even be respectful of your convictions, but believers cannot accept it as truth. It's not about trying to be exclusive or be right, but about the reality that genuinely following Christ will cause us to be separate.
I know that a lot of people (even Christians) may not be able to relate to this blog, but that's why it's titled "I Don't Fit In." I also know that people can relate to not fitting in from all different angles and walks of live. This is just a place to vent about my experiences of being set apart. I love my coworkers and pray for them every week. I'd love to relate to my coworkers more and develop inner court connections. However, people know when something on the inside of them is not in agreement and two can't walk together unless they be agreed. I make it a point to connect with people and find places where we can relate, but I also know when the gossip and cursing is about to get started and that's when it's time for my bathroom break.