Middle school was weird.
My experience in Middle School was a mixture of positive and negative. The positives had to do with a sense of expanding freedom and experiences, as well as a coming of age.
The negatives were more numerous and came from a sense of loss with regard to social behavior, and my place/role within the social group. Awkwardness in social behavior was matched by the awkwardness of body. The varying degrees of physical maturity never tilted in my favor (I didn’t hit puberty until after many of my friends, and I was never tall or strong or extremely athletic). My personal situation didn’t help much; being from a large Catholic family I wore eight year old hand-me-downs from my brothers, and had to explain why my family went to church every Sunday, why I wore a scapular, and why I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances.
As I look back on this now I can laugh for two reasons. One, the situations and circumstances are actually quite funny! Two, I survived (even thrived) in middle school because I never cared about what others thought. I somehow was innauculated to the judgments and discrimination of my peers. This allowed me to “float” from group to group and be friends with everyone rather than be accepted or rejected by one “monarch” or another.
But there were outcasts. Joey Boyle and Joe Lejewski are two names I will never forget. I don’t know much about either of their home lives as kids, but at school they each worked hard to recieve negative attention making themselves “weird” even by a middle schooler’s skewed definition. Teachers found them equally trying, finding punishments ineffective and motivation impossible. No one liked them, they were subject to insult and bullying, (even I had a hand in the bullying, physically and verbally), and never included in any social activity in school or out.
Sounds awful doesn’t it.
I have some bad new and some good news.
The Bad News
Middle School isn’t over. If anything the “spirit of middle school” rules much of our world today. There are more outcasts now than ever. Today’s outcasts are (see if you can find the contradictions) the poor (particularly those receiving monetary living assistance from the government), the homeless, divorcés, the abused, homosexuals, the mentally ill, addicts, “rebellious” teens, those in prison, ex convicts, the fat, the ugly, the sick, the dying, political liberals, atheists, the religious, homeschoolers, non-Christians, non-Americans, the virgin, the “slut”, the “too young mother,” the “too old mother”, the unemployed (especially men), teachers, the uneducated, the old, the walmart shopper, the walmart worker, the minimum wage worker, the stay-at-home mother, the dead beat dad, the introvert, women in general, the unfashionable, the non-English speaker, minorities…
Wait a second, who is left? Nobody. We are ALL outcast. Almost every human on earth that has outgrown the innocence of youth to join the ranks of the “mature” adult world feels insufficient, wrong, dirty, ugly, unsuccessful, or just simply “outcast.” We all suffer from this to the varying degree we personally identify with this “outcast persona”.
Wait another second, “outcast persona” is just a fancy name for ego!
The Good News
Jesus LOVED the outcasts. Here’s a short list of them,
All twelve of his apostles, the Gentiles, Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, the divorced Samaritan woman at the well, the Samaritans in general, the syrophoenician woman, beggars, lepers, the dead, among many others.
He loved them so much that he even called them “mακάριοι” (makarioi).
Makarioi is a Greek word found over and over in Matthew chapter five and is translated as “happy” or “blessed” as in “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” But “makarioi” has a stronger meaning. It describes a believer in an enviable position because he receives so much favor and grace from God. That changes everything!
Jesus was actually saying “You should envy the poor! You should envy the meek, and the rejected”. Or in my words, “You should envy the outcast…” But why? Yes, I know that “theirs is the kingdom of God…” but what does that mean?
Here’s what I think. Outcasts are rejected by the world and by ego, so by identifying yourself as an outcast you are one step closer to shedding the ego. Imagine how difficult it would be to find the “Kingdom of Heaven within” if the world of ego loves you and accepts you! Accepting the rejection of the world and of ego puts you in an enviable position of favor with God because you are not buried deep in the mire of ego. Everything the ego hates is heavenly, so if the world rejects you, you are closer to heaven, that is closer to the “Kingdom of God” within you, the High Spirit that you are! Freedom, peace, love!
[addressed to the Scribes and Pharasees]
“…Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes [the outcasts] are entering the kingdom of God before you.”
The Scribes and Pharasees were the egos, the outcasters, the separaters, the superiors. They were educated in the law, and loved the law with their minds and not their hearts, following only the “letter of the law” and never “the spirit”. They were hypocrites pretending to be wise and holy but only lived in their egos. Jesus and his preaching against them must have been quite irritating, to the point that they wanted to kill him.
Jesus was neither gentle with people’s egos, nor his own, he crucified his! He smashed people’s egos publically as if to say, “What will you do now? Will you use this ego pain to run towards your Heavenly Kingdom within, or go home angy and victimized growing ego stronger for another day?”
So why am I still so possessed by impressing the ego of the world? Isn’t that like looking back at middle school and wishing I fit in more with a group which rejected me? Wouldn’t it be wiser to look at middle school memories and say, “Look how powerless those foolish children’s judgments of me are today! They are meaningless noise and chatter in the distant past.”
Maybe it’s time I look at the world and say, “I do not value your treasure. It is meaningless noise and chatter and will soon be on the distant past.” Maybe it’s time I survived (even thrived) in life because I never care about what others think. I want to be innauculated to the judgments and discrimination of my peers. I want to “float” to my higher self rather than be accepted or rejected by the world of ego.
What ego loves is hell, and what ego hates is heaven. There is a devil, and his name is ego.