Insiders/Outsiders

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Have you ever felt excluded? Perhaps you were on the periphery of something you really desired, but it was just beyond your reach?  What you longed for was not within your grasp. It simply wasn’t available. The experience really hurt.

 

Maybe you were twelve or thirteen years old at the time? Everyone else in your class was invited to a friend’s birthday party, but your invitation never arrived in the mail.  The invitation never arrived in the mail because it was never sent. Whether purposefully or otherwise, you were left out. The experience really hurt.

 

I sometimes listen to a talk radio station and I’m often surprised by the kinds of things that people find unsettling.  I am also surprised by the extremes they will take to extract answers. A young woman in her twenties was offended because her best friend didn’t invite her to be in her wedding party. She wanted to know why?  Instead of asking her friend, she reached out to the radio station to solicit the answer. Long story short, the best friend wasn’t included in the wedding party because the bride didn’t like the looks of her friend’s hair.  She thought the friend’s hair would spoil her wedding pictures. I think I remember that the color of her friend’s hair was blue, but I may be making that up.  Consequently, the jilted friend (blue hair or not) was left out. The experience really hurt.

 

If I were to ask for your participation in crafting my blog this morning, I bet many of you could offer an example of a time in your life when you felt excluded or left out. That is never a good experience, but you have to agree with me that it is memorable. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be thinking of it right now. In all probability, the experience really hurt. How’s that for proving my point?

 

I have a friend who vividly recalls the only birthday party her mother ever hosted for her. Of course, it was a conjoint birthday party for her brother as well.  Coincidentally, it was on his birthday and not hers, but what she didn’t know until later is that her mother made a notation on the invitations that gifts were being limited to the brother only. One was not desired for the sister.  How’s that for being excluded?  Trust me, my friend still remembers.  She still remembers because the experience really hurt. 

 

During my childhood years, I have no recall of my maternal great grandparents on Grandpa’s side. They may have been deceased before I was born. I really don’t know. I do remember that my mother never said much about her paternal grandmother apart for the fact that she wasn’t very child friendly.  Not long ago, I asked my only remaining aunt about her paternal grandmother and I was startled with the disclosure.

 

She, too, never looked forward to visiting in the home of her paternal grandparents. At family gatherings, the men and her grandmother ate together. The women and children were served last and that was only after the men folk and their mother had eaten.  Can you believe it? 

 

I can almost imagine the puzzlement and the confusion my grandmother and her sister-in-laws must have experienced.  They waited while their husbands and their father-in-law and mother-in-law dined together in the dining room before anyone else was served. Talk about feeling excluded!

 

Actually, according to my aunt, it was the cluster of women (her mother and aunts) who were waiting to feed their own children that actually prepared the meal.  My maternal great grandmother was reportedly above any of that.  She was the matriarch of the family and menial tasks like housework and cooking were beneath her.

 

Speaking of feeling excluded, is it possible to be a member of a church and long for connectivity and a sense of belonging with the family of faith only to find that for whatever reason, you never felt like your presence was wanted?  You had the sense that no one really cared whether you attended or not.   Consequently you dropped out. You made your way out the back door of the church and you never looked back. You felt excluded and unimportant.  The disappointing experience at church really hurt.

 

The numbers of people that I know who’ve experienced disappointment, rejection, criticism and emotional bruises from going to church surprises me. I’ve mentioned before that the term “family conflict” seems like an oxymoron. Certainly that is true if it happens within a family of faith.  It is a bitter contradiction to what the church teaches about grace and forgiveness.

 

People long to be a part of a welcoming, loving, inviting fellowship where everyone is valued and deemed important.  By the way, I sense our church is a church like that. We recently were paid the highest of compliments – without disclosing identifying information – I was told about a family that previously worshipped with us and then because of circumstance had to relocate.  They never again discovered a fellowship as welcoming, genuine, loving and inclusive as Henly.  Consequently, they soon dropped out of the church where they moved because they didn’t feel included. That hurts my heart.

 

We don’t always agree on everything, but regardless we are friends that stick closer than a brother. We come from different places. Some grew up in the church. Others of us discovered Henly and the place where we worship in the midst of adulthood. In fact, there is one younger couple that are relatively new to our church. They discovered the church by looking at a house to purchase in the neighborhood. The house didn’t work out, but they concluded God used the house hunt to bring them home – home to a family of faith where there is unity, a sense of family, a sense of belonging and a sense of God’s presence. 

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

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