I’m not sure why some people always seem like they fit in and others always seem to struggle finding their group-their ‘tribe’. From the time I was little, I always seemed to be a wanderer when it came to finding friends. Sometimes, I’d have 1-2 close friends I’d spend time with and other times, I had a lot of ‘acquaintances’ but no deep connections. It wasn’t that I was too anything or not enough of anything; I just always seemed to be lost somewhere in the middle. I remember, being in the fourth grade sitting in music class, and noticing that all the girls had ‘ked’ shoes on. At the time in the mid 80’s, that was the shoe to wear. I, on the other hand, had a generic version-as I always seem to have. A plain white canvas shoe; similar to the name brand, but missing what I perceived was one glaring omission-the blue rectangle on the back of the shoe. Deciding that I was tired of not fitting in, I went home that day and grabbed a magic marker to color in my plain white rectangle on the back of my generic canvas shoes blue; assuring myself that no one else would notice the difference. Looking back, I have little doubt that the only person who noticed or cared in the beginning was me and that all I managed to do with my blue magic marker decision was draw attention to the fact that I colored my generic canvas shoes blue. Fast forward thirty some odd years later, and I’m standing at a party listening to women I know discuss a social event that had happened a few months prior. As these women talked about their fun and the conversations and events that took place, instinctively, I felt like that same little 4th grade girl with the generic blue marker on the back of my shoe. I hadn’t been invited or included once again. Then, during one particular story, I heard a very quiet whisper in my heart tell me, “I protected you from that.”
“I protected you”. It wasn’t that God didn’t want me to have friends; it wasn’t that God wanted me to be ‘left out’. It was that God wanted MORE for me than going to parties like that would allow. How can I begin a ministry focused on growing roots in who God is and who He has called me to be and allow myself to be entangled by conversations, events, or decisions that would not be bringing glory to Him? Sometimes, while we are still young in our faith, in our walk, in our calling-before our roots have had time to fully develop-God protects us from things that might harm our witness or the calling He has placed on us. By not being invited, by not being included, God was showing me His kindness and love knowing I was not strong enough to have left on my own accord. I would’ve been still too worried about what others might have thought.
If my heart and my calling is to focus on where God is leading me, my roots need to be deep enough in His word that I have the strength I need to leave an inappropriate situation rather than stay out of ‘fear of what others will think.’ I can’t have it both ways. I can’t live a life seeking to serve God but only do it in a way that doesn’t allow others to not like me, not include me, or worry about what ‘they’ think. Even now, as an adult, it can be hard.
My encouragement to you is that while it may feel lonely, or feel like you’re being left out too, maybe just maybe, it’s because God’s protecting you from a situation you would not be strong enough to battle on your own. In Christine Caine’s book, UNDAUNTED she states,
“Your freedom will be determined by whether you allow what I think and say about you to matter more than what anyone else thinks or says, …They have said what you are not. But I say what you are, and you are created in my image, not theirs. You reflect my glory…If you allow those labels to loom larger in your heart and mind than the promises of God, they can fool you into missing God’s truth about who you are, into not pursuing the purpose God has had in mind for you from the beginning of time. “
I left that brief interaction, for probably the first time ever in my life, saying ‘thank you, God.’ Thank you for all the times I wasn’t invited; I wasn’t included. Thank you for protecting me when I wasn’t yet strong enough to protect myself and my calling. Thank you for giving me time so that I can continue to grow my roots deeper and seek you more than I seek a temporary feeling of inclusion. Thank you for giving me the space needed to make the hard choices so I can live the life of true significance for you that I’m so desperately seeking.
So, maybe just maybe my friend, all those times you hear about parties or events that you weren’t invited to or included in; maybe it’s because God was protecting you from something you’re not strong enough to do on your own. Maybe instead of feeling down or disappointed, tell God thank you for loving you so much-especially on the days you didn’t even notice it, and He protected you from your own choices.