~ by Julia Roller
A few years ago, I was out for a walk with my son and we happened upon a little playground we’d never visited before. He hopped out of the stroller and started to play. After a few minutes of having the place to ourselves, several cars pulled up and moms started unloading their small children, all around Ben’s age. I realized it was a playgroup meetup and then I noticed that I knew a couple of the moms slightly.
Those two women I knew invited me to stay and play with the group, but as more and more moms arrived, I realized I didn’t feel at all comfortable. All of the moms were blonde and very well put-together, even in their playground gear. There were a few moms who were also wearing workout clothes, but unlike me, they had clearly done their hair and makeup. I felt more sweaty and disheveled by the minute. I kept thinking in my head, “One of these things is not like the other!” So I said my goodbyes and we hurried off, much to Ben’s disappointment.
It’s happened to all of us, I’m sure– the feeling that we don’t exactly fit in. I’ve even experienced it within church youth groups or Bible studies—times where I’ve felt not saved enough for certain groups or “too Christian” for others.
It’s hard to feel like you don’t belong. And every year as school is starting back up, I worry that my sons will experience this same sort of feeling.
What I will tell my sons as they prepare to head off to new classrooms and (hopefully) new friends is that it’s okay to feel like they don’t fit in sometimes. After all, Jesus reminded us in his prayer of John 17:16 that we “do not belong to the world, just as I [Jesus] do not belong to the world.”
No, we don’t fully belong here and so at times we’ll all feel that incongruence, but I will also tell my boys that they’ll find their people, eventually. And they may not be the ones that looked like their people right away. It takes a little patience sometimes.
And underlying all of that, they can rest in the sure knowledge that they always fit in in Christ’s kingdom, where everyone is welcomed even and especially for the different roles they can play. They’re old enough to understand Paul’s beautiful image in 1 Corinthians 12 of each one of us as an essential part of Christ’s body, working together in harmony as the Church on earth and also, I believe, in heaven.
One more thing I’d like to share with them: most of the time, it’s up to you to decide whether you belong or not. The women in the group tried to welcome me that day; I was the one telling myself I didn’t fit in. Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t, but I’ve wondered since then if I should have taken a deep breath and stuck around. Despite all that perfectly coiffed blonde hair, maybe they could have been my people.
Next time I hope to give myself the chance to find out.