There is an advantage to living on the edge

FA few years ago, I embarked on a master’s program at a theologically conservative seminary. As a black and politically liberal woman, I stood out among most of my classmates.

I’m on the lower end of the income scale compared to most of my peers. I’m also over 30 and happily single, while almost all of my friends have gotten married. Three years ago I began to suffer from undiagnosed health problems. To top it all off, I run in nerd circles, but I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars, Star Trek, or Harry Potter movies, and I’ve never listened to the hamilton soundtrack.

At times, being an outsider has been out of my control. Sometimes it was a consequence of my choice to pursue certain interests or communities. Other times I looked for it, such as when choosing universities, churches, and living abroad.

No matter how it turned out for me to be an outsider, I have always learned from it. Over time, I moved from insecurity about my difference to neutrality, to recognizing its value and letting it improve me. It has taught me about the greatness of God, the closeness of him, the power of him, and his specific care for the person and circumstances.

During a difficult season of life, I wrote to a friend: “Are all the seasons and circumstances that illuminate the true nature of grace a gift? Since Paul boasts of his weaknesses and difficulties because they facilitate his most powerful encounters with grace (2 Cor. 12:8-10), are all things then gifts that bring the power of Christ to rest in us?

It was my very differences that convinced me of God’s sovereignty over things like the time and place I lived in and the family I was born into. Realizing that God was working for my good not despite my race but because of it deepened my faith. And with each new dimension of difference that is granted to me, my understanding of God’s grace only grows.

In The outer edge, author and CEO Robert Kelsey says that being a true outsider is exclusively negative: “There is nothing inherently enabling about this situation, regardless of the opinion of fashion commentators. There are no advantages. There is no edge be on the limit.” A truly gloomy outlook.

But if I could go back and reverse any of my external experiences, I wouldn’t. All the privileges inside could not tempt me to part with everything I have gained while abroad. A world where I don’t see what I see now, I don’t feel what I feel now or I don’t know what I now know is unimaginable. I am convinced that the world and the church need certain things for their flourishing that only spring from seeds of difference.

Taken from: The stranger’s gift, Copyright © 2023 Alicia J. Akins. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon.

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