Being left out is one of the worst feeling in the world.
Yes, as an adult, I still really believe that.
Perhaps it's because of how often I was left out of things in my childhood that makes this still a challenge today. And there is such a part of me right now that is screaming, "Won't you ever grow up? Won't you ever just get over it?"
As children, we are told by our parents that being left out is "their loss" and the familiar, "they don't know what they will be missing" and then, of course, "You're too good for them anyway" would often come from the mouths of friends. Which means nothing when you are at your grandmother's house after school and her next door neighbor is a classmate having a birthday party that she did not invite you to. My 4th grade heart was crushed. I still remember standing in my grandma's driveway while I watched all the other girls in my class run around in the yard playing games, without me, birthday hats on. I was just stuck waiting for my mom to pick me up.
I wonder what it takes to grow out of that tiny child inside of you that says, "Not fair!" "Why is it always me?" "Why doesn't anyone like me?" - when all that is truly happening is a heart aching and some tiny little tears welling up in the corners of my eyes.
"When will I overcome the hurt and pain of not being included?" is really what my heart is asking. A far more interesting and pensive question for a Thursday night.
Today was a fascinating day. I was asked a powerful and challenging question that I'd never considered before. Fellow introverts join me in saying, "Oh, no!" Because, as a general rule, we just don't do well on our feet. But this person often asks me these kinds of questions, and what happened today is what I find happening every time I'm faced with such a challenging question: the Holy Spirit intervenes.
As the words tumbled out of the mouth and I didn't even realize what I was saying, I just closed my eyes and my memory went back to a place of rejection. A place where several people treated me as less than because I was not part of their denomination. (Yes, being left out can happen in places such as this.)I recalled one moment where I was conversing with a fellow seminary student about difficult question, and I raised one that I'd heard recently in the membership class I was attending. "Who created sin?" the person had asked... so I ask my fellow student the same one.
Now, I realize this is a bit of a loaded and pretty three-dimensional question. I also knew how I would answer it if I was being asked. My fellow student did not know that. For all he knew, I was genuinely asking.
"Well, now that's just a stupid question. The issue is really this..." was his response. He went on to repeat something one of our professors had no doubt said at some point.
At that point, it didn't really matter to me what he said. All I could think was, "I really hope that's not how he addresses a future congregation member when he is the pastor of a church."
I went on, for the next year and a half of school learning how to ask great questions... how to make connections between things that people don't always see... how to care for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and what that really means in educational ministry. "Making Room"
But most of all, I learned how to look beneath the surface of what was really going on.
And that is how the Holy Spirit worked today. When asked such a challenging question, posed by a congregation member to an elder, who then in turn asked me, I was able to say that perhaps the better question to ask was something else. That painful experience with my fellow seminary student was redeemed by Christ today. I do not believe the experience was given to me just so the conversation today could happen and the wisdom could be passed on. I do not believe God works like that.
But I do believe he makes beauty out of mess. How lovely. How wonderful.