It’s the same every week. I walk into church with my family, pick up our bulletin from the greeter and find a seat. We partially listen to the sermon while we keep our boys cornered in the pew so they don’t disturb anyone with their matchbox cars. After leading the youth group, I chat with groups of students as they talk about their week and what they’ll be doing that evening. I finally meet up with my wife to corral our boys. We shake hands and say quick hello’s to the people we pass as we head out to the car. I look back over my shoulder at our demographic: the group of 30-something’s with kids, standing and chatting. They’re planning where they’re headed for lunch and whose house they will gather at to play board games that evening. I’m well aware that conversation won’t include me.
This is my church. I’m an elder, member of the board, leader of a ministry. I’ve been there 10 years and everyone knows who I am. But sometimes I can’t help but feel lonely in the midst of the crowd.
To stand back and look at it through their eyes, I’d understand the lack of inclusion. Between my family and ministry it would appear I have it all together and am content with where I fit into the social structure. But it’s easy to allow busyness to mask the emotions under the surface. Casual hello’s are polite courtesy to cover the longing for inclusion. A smile means everything is okay, instead of just the mask to stop the tears.
Over the years I’ve come to accept the role I play. Through the times feeling rejected and an outsider, I’ve realized the blessings that have been placed in my life. It’s opened my eyes to see the world around me more clearly, and my place in it.
There’s a lot more to see when you stand in the corner and look on. You see you’re not alone. You see the many individuals standing in the middle of everything, watching the cliques walk by without noticing. Like a ghost they move from group to group longing for an invitation to join them, even for a minute so they will feel more human.
How do you tell people you’re lonely without sounding pathetic ?
How do you get people to like you without sounding needy?
But there are more than those you can visibly tell are outsiders. There are the people you wouldn’t expect. Those whom you don’t engage because you assume they have plans already. Maybe you feel they are out of your league entirely. “They’re alone by choice” you tell yourself. “They could call a dozen people and have plans in a minute”.
It’s sad to think that there are people around you who would give anything for a friendly invitation, a casual conversation, or a loving touch. A person who is longing for friendship. They are involved, making themselves present. Risking their pride in the hopes that someone else will notice them too.
No person is beyond your reach.
No one is too far out of your social spectrum to engage. It only takes a moment to look at the world through a different lens and see so many lonely people standing right in front of us.