Outside the Circle


He looked so sad. 

“What’s the matter Jude?”

“Charlie doesn’t want to play with me,” he answered hanging his head low. 

All of us at one time or another have felt excluded. Sometimes the smallest things  impact us the most. Remember gym day at school? Our stomachs tied in little knots as  captains chose members for their teams. Many hoped to be chosen quickly. A few prayed they would not be last.  

Remember approaching a group of kids at play and asking if you could join them? Kids aren’t shy about excluding. Some adults follow suit, they just do it with more subtlety. 

You’ll hear words of excitement, “Yes, let’s get together.”

And you think they mean it and so you follow up. But though you leave messages, your phone calls are never answered. Eventually you realize it was a paper thin invitation, with no substance. Perhaps some of you have felt the sting of being openly excluded; a party you weren’t invited to, or maybe you were unfriended on Facebook. 

Exclusion is hard, at any level. A friend of mine shared how she felt working temporarily at a company. Though she was equally qualified, she was not warmly welcomed at lunch, nor did she get to share in idle talk. She was excluded because after all, she was just a “temp.” 

Why are people excluded?

People are excluded for a number of reasons. Maybe the person is different than the rest, or maybe he/she does not do things as well. Remember standing behind a volleyball net? We were sure the next time would be different if we were just given a shot. And then it happened. The ball spirals at us in full force. We put our hands up to protect our face and instead of hitting the ball with full force, the ball hits our hands and immediately drops down. We hear a groan but we’re uncertain if it’s coming from out classmates or from within ourselves.  

Everyone wants to be included. We want to be part of something bigger, but this doesn’t always happen. And even when we thought we were included, we found ourselves somehow outside the circle looking in.   

In a perfect world no one would be excluded. Each person would care for one another regardless of differences or abilities, just because. But the sad reality is we live in broken world with wounded people.

My story

My parents raised me with many restrictions. I remember one rule in particular that my father would repeat, “You will not date until you are18 years old.” Feeling odd, I tried hiding those differences in an effort to blend in, but it didn’t work. 

8th grade graduation luncheon. We all sat dressed up, at little decorated tables with our parents. Taking the microphone, the class president began. “ I’m going to announce what each 8th grade student is most likely to become.” My anxiety heightened as I awaited my turn.      

“Anne is most likely to open up a blind date club.” The words stung deeply as I heard classmates all around me laughing. Tears slid down my reddened face and all I wanted to do was disappear. 

I held together as it was time for the last segment of the program. Kenneth would announce what each of us would bequeath to the 7th grade class. Once again I felt myself tighten up. 

“Anne will bequeath her long fingernails.” Once again laughter circulated, as I instinctively closed my hands into fists, hiding my short bitten fingernails. At that moment I realized I was not part of that class. That celebration turned into a bruise that lasted for years. 

Is there something we can do to help those who feel the pain of being excluded?

Include someone 

If we look around, we can probably spot someone who feels excluded. Maybe we can lift the invisible wall, letting him/her enter. God is not a respecter of persons. We need to see others as God sees them. Every person matters. Every person has value. Maybe if we remember that we will include others more readily, making sure that no one sits outside the circle.

I Never Meant to Hurt Them

I thought I saw him coming through the door of the thrift shop. Carefully I inched closer wanting to see if it was really him. He looked about the right age, but it was hard to tell since many years had passed. I wondered if he’d recognize me.

I had changed to be sure. Being discarded ages one prematurely, but it’s hard to tell when you’re a belt. My leather face was well worn, and my buckle somewhat tarnished. Shame had taken its toll on me. Quietly, I wondered if he ever thought back years ago, as I often felt compelled to do.

It always started the same. Apprehension filled the air. The noise level heightened, as did my anxiety. Though I felt hidden, safe from the impending crime, still I was afraid; afraid for the little ones who ran in every direction when the yelling started. Terror filled their young eyes; terror mingled with confusion. And then there was the shame. Little children wear shame as well as they are taught. Guilt was another jacket they easily slipped into. 

I especially felt sorry for the girls who lacked softness and longed for peace.

Somehow, it would have been easier to understand if the smell of liquor permeated the room with the chaos, but there was no drinking to blame. Rage would rear its ugly head unannounced.

I watched for years as the children tried appeasing the monster of anger unleashed, each attempt unsuccessful. I don’t know what bothered me more, the sound of tender flesh being hit, the childish screams begging him to stop, or the muffled sobs coming from their respective bedrooms. Their sobs required an occasional gasp to keep them going. 

No wonder the children grew up afraid of any sudden movement, hating surprises of any kind. Noise became their warning sign. When noise increased their adrenaline started pumping. They knew what was about to happen. Hide and seek started as they all scattered in different directions.

Their abuser was a large man, to them huge. His powerful hands had learned how to hit and he was a master. I remember the first time I was drawn into it all. Innocently I hung on a hook waiting to be slipped around his large waist to hold oversized trousers; that’s what I was made for. But sometimes I was pulled out of those loops so fast, against my will to be part of his hideous crime. The children grew up hating even the sight of me, but I don’t blame them.

At times they hid me, but I didn’t take it personally. It was for their self-preservation. Sometimes I wanted to reveal my hiding place because I knew what would happen if they didn’t hand me over. Harsh hands would hit impressionable skin.

I hated being part of that house. I loved the kids; I just felt so sad. And when the stresses of life overcame their mom, she too fell into the habit of releasing anger by striking out. I felt sorry I was ever made. My purpose was never to invoke fear. My leather was not made strong to mark little weak ones. One day I was discarded with old clothes and a truck escorted me to freedom. Though I would miss the kids, I was relieved to be out of there. I didn’t care if I ever got used again. I just wanted to be out of that house.

I never meant to hurt them.

Disappointments

We all have them. I’d venture to say almost everyday we are disappointed with something or someone. Disappointment coexists with expectations. Some people think they can ward them off by trying to live without expectations. 

“I won’t expect anything and that way I won’t get hurt.”

The problem with that is when we disengage ourselves in one area we are disconnected in others.

Perhaps we would be less disappointed if we saw God as He is, sovereign. It says in Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” 

So according to that verse we can know deep down, if God says “no,” He has reasons I don’t understand. He is after all, God. 

We get in trouble when we think God is on the same level with us. We kind of tell Him what we want and then wait for it in anticipation. There are basic truths we can hold onto.

God is always looking out for our ultimate good. Always.

Do we agree with that? Sometimes we will, sometimes we wont. It depends on how much we want what we’re asking Him for.  

We need to trust God’s character and what is true when we’re tempted to believe the enemy of our souls at times of disappointment. 

No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. He’s talking about those of us who know Jesus personally. Because we trust in Christ we are walking uprightly.

It doesn’t mean that what we’re asking for isn’t good, but other aspects should also be considered. Maybe it’s good, but the timing isn’t right. God is the God of all time. He sees the future, we don’t.

Maybe He’s withholding the thing I want because it wouldn’t be good for someone else in our lives if He were to give it to us. He knows the hearts of all men.

Maybe God has a more important thing to teach us by this disappointment.  

God is the ultimate parent. We can’t see other parents as being good, without the realization they couldn’t be good parents if God wasn’t a loving parent. God is more loving, more patient, more giving. 

As we sit nursing disappointments it’s easy for them to transform into resentments. Instead, we can rest in what we know to be true about God.

God loves us.  John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

We must remember truth when we are presented with lies. Remember, Satan is the father of lies. He thrives on them.

Satan told Eve that God didn’t really care about her. Why should Satan change his tactics, when they work.

We can choose to trust in God’s truth when we are tempted to think otherwise. Like David, we can think back to other times God has provided for us.

And we can spend our time praising God, even thanking Him when He chooses to withhold things, for He is all wise, all-knowing, and all-loving. No one loves us more, no one.