Let me tell you a story about a kid named Michael. He grew up doing a lot of things. He played Little League baseball every year, and he even played basketball a couple of seasons, though he wasn’t a great player. When he was in middle and high school, he played football and baseball. He also performed in school musicals and dramas. He was a member of almost every club offered at school, though in some cases he couldn’t have told you what the purpose of the club was. He pretty much tried to do it all.
He followed a similar pattern in college. After college, he participated in most anything that was readily available to him. Michael was a “yes man.” Even now, he suffers from terrible anxiety when he has to decline an opportunity that’s offered to him. He always finds it preferable to say yes rather than no. He consistently finds his schedule packed out and frequently wonders why he agreed to something when the time comes to do it.
The Need to Be Included
That’s my story (or at least the high points), and I’d venture to say that I’m not alone. Here’s the most curious part about it for me: I didn’t necessarily enjoy all the things in which I participated. Athletics are a great example. I wasn’t particularly good or competitive at either football or baseball. In fact, I vividly remember the great anxiety I felt during every single game day and the great relief I felt as each season drew to a close. So, why did I do it?
Why would a marginally talented kid continue to participate in so many things he didn’t enjoy? I didn’t feel pressure from my parents. I didn’t have aspirations of getting a college scholarship because I didn’t delude myself into thinking I was better than I was. I didn’t have an insatiable desire for victory, though I certainly enjoyed winning more than losing. So why?
I think it’s the same reason I joined all the clubs, went to all the events, and made sure I never missed a social gathering. It’s the same reason I still have the tendency to overcommit myself today: It’s because I’m afraid of being left out. I want to be included. On the inside. One of the gang. This fear doesn’t just manifest itself in terms of overcommitment either.
Interestingly, statistics tell us that the majority of people feel worse after checking a social media site like Facebook than they felt prior to doing so. It’s pretty apparent why that might be – you look around the site and see pictures of all your friends together at that event you couldn’t attend. Or you see a status update from a mom talking about the extracurricular activities of her honor students. Or you see that a certain group of people always seems to find time to do things together that your schedule doesn’t allow. And suddenly you feel worse than you did before.
Maybe the same fear that makes me pack my calendar to the brim is at the root of that feeling, too. It’s not that you necessarily want to do all those things; it’s that you’re afraid of not doing those things. Of not being included.
The Promise of Forever
But I believe that Jesus has something to say about that. To the kid who’s afraid of being left out, the gospel says, “You’re in.” And you’re never going to be left out.
You are, as Paul said, sealed into the family of God with the promise of the Holy Spirit:
“When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The gospel tells you that you aren’t going to be left out. The fear of “missing something” is abated with the knowledge that God has given you everything. And now, knowing that you’re once and for all on the inside — inside the family; inside the promises; inside the dearly loved prized possession of God himself — frees you from that nagging sensation that you might be left out. It allows you to say no when you need to. It motivates you to prioritize what’s important and let everything else go.
So to all those adults with the kid still inside who either stood at the edge of the crowd or constantly pushed your way into it, the gospel says, You’re in. And you belong — now and forever.
This article is courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.
Michael Kelley, M. Div., and his wife, Jana, have three children. He’s the executive director of HomeLife and the Director of Discipleship at LifeWay Christian Resources. His works include The Tough Sayings of Jesus, Faith Limps: Trusting a Good God in a Broken World, and Transformational Discipleship. Keep up with Michael on his blog at michaelkelleyministries.com or on Twitter @_MichaelKelley.