The Art of Cool From One Who Knows*

[From the archives.]


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 cool 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.


*Regarding that blog title – You’ve probably figured out by now that the only way I know cool is from the outside. But I know it when I see it!


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8 Responses to The Art of Cool From One Who Knows*

  1. That is a great quote by Lewis. Tim I think we as kids all of us wanted to be in the in crowd. I know I did, it’s why I pushed so hard at weights. Which took me from the fat husky kid to the guy every other guy was trying to emulate.

    Then as an adult I pushed myself hard in business, which brought tons of fame, awards, prestige and money.Yet, it was still the kid trying to fit in and be somebody.

    Powerful verse which reminds us that we already are in teh only group that matters. Funny thing is I think most days I still live sadly as though I’m still trying to be somebody. Which I belive is still that kid in me but I’m not alone for that is why I believe we have a plethora of blogs, churches, books being written all done by kings kids still possibly trying to be someone. I know I am and one of the reassons I must remind myself as Luthor said daily of the gospel.

    Thanks Tim for reminding me how much I want still to be that kid in the in group.

  2. michellevl says:

    I met someone this week who grew up not far from where I did. We were comparing notes about “the old neighborhood” when she inserted a bit of information about herself into the conversation that took me by surprise. “Yeah, I was a mean girl. My friends and I made fun of everyone who wasn’t just like us.” Most of us remember what it was like to not be the popular kid, so it was shocking to hear someone who actually admitted she recognized the power she wielded when she was a kid.

    Most of us don’t really recognize how powerful it is to be fully accepted by the One who made us, or mean girls and the rest of us struggling with insecurity of all kinds. Great reminder today, Tim.

    • Tim says:

      She sounds like she’d gained some self-awareness over the years, Michelle. It reminds me of the awareness the Spirit is bringing me every day that I am – as you put it – fully accepted. I’m glad for that.

  3. caramac54 says:

    I love this, Tim! I love the intersection of the middle school lunchroom (or wherever that was), CS Lewis, and a few words from Peter and Paul. And I look forward to meeting you – we didn’t end up making it to Davis after all today, as the kid was sick (and is still sleeping …three hour nap, wowzas!). But I’ll hopefully be up there in the next month!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Cara. Coincidentally, I’m in the middle of a re-read of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and the third volume goes deeply into that Inner Ring issue. Have you read them?

      P.S. Bronwyn knows how to reach me locally if you’re up here visiting her!

  4. Pingback: The Problem with Church Membership Covenants – bad doctrine hurts God’s people | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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