by Rachel Bowman
You know that feeling of white-knuckling your lunch tray in a crowded cafeteria while glancing around carefully so no one sees the utter fear in your eyes? Me too.
Who do I sit with? Who looks approachable? Who has room for me? Who will like me? My mind spirals and I often end up stuttering, blanking out, saying something stupid or just sitting alone. This scenario has played out time and time again throughout my life in lunchrooms, conference rooms, parties, playgrounds, and church pews for as long as I can remember. My heart is tender and guarded from years of this self-retaliation and fear of rejection.
I remember one day in particular when my heart was racing and I almost told my husband to turn the car back on and drive home. This party was full of top-level professionals and I felt I did not measure up. The parking lot was full, I had nothing educated or graceful to say, nor did I know anyone. He gently put his hand on my knee, looked me in the eyes and said “just pretend they already like you.” Those words gave me the holy confidence I needed to just walk into that room and be myself.
Imagine young Esther walking into a room with 400 other girls vying to become queen. What if she shrunk back in the corner or decided to just go home?
What if Jesus never spoke to the forbidden Samaritan woman at the well?
What if Abigail never spoke up and prophesied to King David?
What if Paul never befriended the jailer?
What if Lydia never spoke to Paul and helped start the Philippian church?
What if you miss the rich, lovingkindness God has for you because you fear judgment of people? Fear community? Fear rejection?
There is no hierarchy, class, or cool club in heaven.
It is not my calling to make you like me. It is my calling to love you. (Galatians 5:14)
I have zero control if you like me. It is too exhausting and fickle to fight for that. I cannot love you well hiding in a corner, afraid to speak or attached to one friend’s hip. I cannot love you well fighting for your earthly affections and trying to make you like me. I cannot love you well being fake. We so often feed ourselves false narratives about who we are and what people think of us that it cripples our self-image and our faith. It denies His image in us. We live in comparison mode and forget to operate in our God-given gifts. You and I are originals. We are free in Christ. We are image-bearers. We have a purpose and a unique way about us only we have. There will be times people do not appreciate this nor see this beauty. It still does not change our calling to love.
You see, there is a difference between trying to get someone to like you and loving them. By loving them, you remain who Christ created you to be and love them through His love in you. When we are focused on ourselves, we cannot love others well. Love is authentic and kind, it never fails (1 Corinthians 13). I can only love you well seeing you as a fellow image-bearer who needs the love of Jesus. If you still don’t like me, at least I loved you well. If you still don’t like me, at least I obeyed God and loved you anyway. Next time you feel fear, perfectionism, comparison, or insecurity pop up and you are tempted to pretend play nice, remember it will fail you.
Instead, pray Jesus fills you with holy confidence in who He created you to be so you may fulfill His great commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and your divine calling. Walk into that party or board room or playgroup as a daughter of God. He sees you, He likes you and He loves you. Go pretend they already like you, love well, and set the world on fire for Jesus.
Rachel Bowman is a mom to four in four years, a church planter, and writer of words. She enjoys icy-cold coffee, a Lego-free floor, and encouraging women to lead where they are. She is also the Delaware/Maryland regional Propel Chapter Director. Her and her husband, Paul, launched Anchor Church in 2017. You can follow her on social media at @rachelmariebowman.