If you know Jackie Wilson, you know how cool he is. If you don’t know Jackie Wilson, you’ll know how cool he is after watching him sing Lonely Teardrops (1958, American Bandstand). If you can keep your feet from shuffling under your desk trying to imitate his steps, you have more self-control than I have:
As I said in the title – cooler than I’ll ever be.
Growing up, I wanted to be one of the cool kids. I wasn’t, but at times it was what I wanted more than anything else. The guys played sports well; I was picked last or close to it for games. The girls threw parties that the cool guys got invited to; I hung out at home reading comic books. The cool kids were on the inside, and I was outside with my nose pressed against the glass looking in. If I took the time to look around, I’d notice that there were a few others staring in as well. I didn’t want to be with those people; I wanted to be on the inside.
Sad, isn’t it?
But I remember my childhood as a happy one. It was filled with friends I could trade comic books with, long bike rides up and down the coastal town I grew up in, a family that loved me and cared for me. I knew in my heart – even if I couldn’t put words on it – that I didn’t have it so bad.
As I got older, though, the line between the cool kids and the non-cool kids got blurred. I didn’t see myself as being on the outside so much. In fact, some of my friends in college told me at times that I was one of the insiders. Funny how I still didn’t see myself that way. I wonder if the cool kids when I was growing up had similar views of themselves, they didn’t know they were on the inside.
The Inner Ring
In his lecture “The Inner Ring”, C.S. Lewis said:
I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.
This quest for Inner Ring membership, Lewis says, can lead people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do because that’s what being in the Inner Ring means. If you don’t do them, you’re not true to the Inner Ring. If you do them, you’re not true to yourself. And once you’re in, you become like the others and make it almost impossible for the next person to get in.
My longings as a kid on the outside looking in, my restlessness as I grew up, all of this stemmed from a desire to be in that Inner Ring.
The Real Inside
God knows we want to be on the inside, eternally secure in being with those who really matter. After all, he’s the one who “set eternity in the human heart” in the first place. (Ecclesiastes 3:11.) The amazing thing is that, unlike the denizens of Lewis’s Inner Ring who strive to keep others out, God wants us to be on the inside with him:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10.)
Once I was not one of God’s people, now I am.
Once I had not received mercy, now I have.
Once I was on the outside, now I’m in.
I may never be as cool as Jackie Wilson – and I do admire his voice, timing, phrasing, dancing, and uber-coolness – but I am on the inside of the only ring that really matters, one with room enough for all. You can be too, “for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” (Romans 10:13.)
Come on in.