As I sat down to write, I rehearsed all the times I’ve felt like the odd man out…..uhhhggg. Not my favorite trip down memory lane.
I had this idea when I was younger that when I got older, my adult friends wouldn’t act like that – because they would be grown-ups. And certainly grown-ups would be better.
Hellooooo adulthood and all your rude awakenings. DARN YOU.
But, as I would learn, this fear of being left out isn’t something we will ever out-grow. Because the need to be included is a primal instinct.
Throughout history, “being included” was a vital part of survival. In tribal communities, being left out often meant a death sentence. One depended on their tribe for food, shelter and protection.
Being “a part” meant being safe.
As societies evolved, the need to remain in the group was just as important for survival.
Even though now we have evolved into an independent society, we still do not feel safe when left on the outside.
We feel exposed, vulnerable and alone.
THIS IS WHY WE HATE THIS FEELING SO MUCH.
THIS IS WHY I HATE THIS AND DO MY BEST TO AVOID IT.
From the school lunch table to the moms group at church, no one wants to feel alone.
We innately fear being alone.
I fear being alone.
My primal instinct says, I want to know that if all hell breaks loose, someone’s got my back. I want to know if I’m attacked, I won’t be standing alone. I want to know that when I fall down (not if but when), there will be a village to cover and protect me.
The feeling of being included has a powerful impact on our self-view and world-view. It is a core need to our ability to survive and thrive.
When included, I feel safe.
When safe, I feel brave.
When brave, I feel like I can take on the world.
When I do not feel safe, I shrink.
When I shrink, I cower and I hide.
We ALL need a safe village where we feel loved, accepted, valued and not alone.
But, sadly many get stuck inside the opposite of a safe community: one where you’re constantly trying to prove yourself, be good enough or “right” enough to be deemed worthy of acceptance.
THIS IS NOT THE GOSPEL.
NOT EVEN CLOSE.
Jesus was an equal opportunity accepter (I think I just made that word up).
He embraced, loved, healed, defended and befriended people regardless of them having to “fit in” or prove themselves worthy.
He bucked social culture even further by making a habit of connecting with people who were vastly different from each other.
Could it be that Jesus was trying to give us a peek into the social dynamics of heaven?
One where there are no rules, standards or hills to climb in order to “fit in”. One where the message is simple: we are all the same. All welcome. All invited.
BUT…we don’t live in heaven.
We live here.
And we often feel like outsiders.
Over the years, I’ve sat with many people and learned to listen…
Like maybe you’re the mom who is perpetually late for school pick up (grinning a bit here). Good Lord, you’re lucky if you make it with your hair and make up done, let alone have a van that doesn’t spew out nuggets and crayons every time you open the door. You try really hard to help with the class parties – stay up all night searching the best pintrest cupcakes to bring because you’re DETERMINED TO SHOW YOUR WORTH WITH YOUR DAZZLING PINTREST CUPCAKES. But, your baby poops before walking out the door and by the time you get in the car, you’re late. While speeding, you’re STRESSING-THE-FREAK-OUT and slamming your brakes at every light. You arrive late and see all the other “perfect” moms helping the now already started party. You open your cupcakes only to see the frosting smeared everywhere (thank you stop lights). You take a deep breath….and quietly sink. It’s official. You’ll never measure up. You’re “that mom”. You watch the other moms get together for lunch dates, coffee and connect through their perfect-pintrest-mommy-lives and you continually feel like you’re watching from the outside. Never enough. Never going to fit in.
Or maybe you’re the one African American guy at your company. You dress to the nines every morning, make sure all of your projects are top notch, work overtime and kill yourself to prove that you’re worthy of being seen the same as everyone else. You go out for drinks with the guys after work and just as you start to let your guard down, the conversation shifts to how they think people from the inner city have no work ethic. You remember your childhood in the inner city, where you watched your mom work her tail off to provide for you and your brothers and sisters. You swell with pride thinking of her and everything she taught you to be. You chime in and say, What about me? and they quickly reply with, Well, you’re different. The already deep pit in your stomach deepens. You go right back to feeling like the outsider: the one who will always be different and never fit in.
Or maybe you identify as LGBTQ. You have tried to fit the “normal” mold your entire life. You pray that God will change you, but deep inside you know you were made this way. So, you question God. Wondering if he just gets some sick kick out of watching you be different in a world that expects you to be the same as everyone else. But, you shove those thoughts down so no one can see. Because if they saw…if they really knew, they’d walk away for sure. You don’t believe anyone could love or accept you if they knew who you really were. So you wrestle and fight with yourself to try to fit in.
I could keep going with different scenarios, but I think you get the gist.
We ALL experience feelings of being left out.
ALL OF US.
Underneath the color of skin, gender, social or political preference, the bones in EVERY human are the SAME. To believe one is more right or more powerful is to believe we are not all the same and are not all made from the same Creator.
Even the ones you may disagree with….they are the same as you. If they have the same bones, they have the same Creator and the same survival instincts tucked inside.
We all share the same primal fears: the fear of being alone and left out.
Could it be that that’s why Jesus didn’t make a habit of correcting people or leaving people out?
Could it be that when he looked at the human race, he was not moved by cultural backgrounds, religiosity, marital status, genders or social preferences?
Could it be that when Jesus looked in the eyes of mankind, all he saw was this primal need: the need to be included. The need to be loved. The need to be accepted. The need to be defended. The need to be understood. The need to be safe.
Because if there was ONE commonality in his interactions with people, IT WAS THAT.
My sweet friends, when you feel left out – know this: THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE FEELS THIS WAY. You’re village is out there. And for every group that rejects you, there is another waiting with open arms to embrace you.
Your Creator does not see you as a project that needs to be fixed or as someone who needs to just change a little bit more to be called one of his own. YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD. He loves you. He accepts you. And that is enough.
I challenge you to dig deep inside and pull from that very place that hurts so much. To open your eyes and look for those who are on the outside. Look them in the eye and see the need to be included and loved.
GO AND LOVE WELL.