I heard this story once from one of the kindest humans I know. He told me about his experience in junior high and being raised by a single mother who was struggling to make ends meet. His shoes were so busted up that the soles used to flap when he would walk. Teenage years can be brutal and he told me how his classmates used to make fun of him. So he decided at that moment (and after a million other preceding moments) that he would do whatever he had to do to get what he needed. Even if it meant criminal activity, violence and destruction. Then he said this….
“All of my life I have felt like an outsider.”
I heard another story once from another one of the kindest people I have ever met. She told me about the time her daughter was sent to prison and for the years of her incarceration, people only asked her about her daughter. Her own identity seeming to fade into oblivion. Good intentions by others, but failure to see the extraordinary gem of the human right in front of them. Failure to see her brokenness and suffering. Failure to see that she also was serving time, sentenced to loss and grief, and stepping into a parental role for her grandchildren that she never anticipated having to fill.
My heart bleeds for both of them. For the rejection they felt in their experiences. For how those moments made them feel insignificant and unworthy.
But you know who I feel the most sorry for?
For all of those people who missed out on the gift of them. Those people were holding blue diamonds and didn’t even realize it. Do you know how much a blue diamond is worth?
3.9 million per carat.
For a gem small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. For a gem that the average person wouldn’t even recognize as any more significant than any other gem.
Yes, teenage years can be brutal. Sometimes “kids can be so mean,” as you often hear said. Their impulsivity and unbridled behavior causes them to say things without considering the consequences. But truth is, sometimes adults can be mean too. Sometimes as adults, we treat others with preferential treatment. We are often not champions and advocates for the underdog. We are champions for the shiniest. For what glitters the most. For who looks best on stage. For who is the most well spoken. For the most seemingly qualified.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of King David. Chosen by God since the beginning of time to be king over Israel. But you know who didn’t recognize David’s potential to be king? His own father. Mega ouch.
When asked to present all his sons to see which one might possibly be chosen, he didn’t even bother to call David in from the field where he was tending sheep. He didn’t know that David’s willingness to live with the smell of the sheep out in the fields was preparing him to eventually lead and care for people.
Maybe you have felt like the outsider before.
Like you don’t fit in anywhere.
Like the kid on the wrong side of the tracks.
Awkward in social circles.
A misfit or black sheep in your family.
Overlooked in your workplace.
Maybe even at your church.
Like you wouldn’t even belong in a field with smelly sheep.
My husband has this saying whenever he feels passionate about something. He will say, “that makes me want to jump out the window.” He doesn’t mean in some self harm way. He means that what he just heard was so epic and touched him so deeply that he could jump out of a window, through a thousand shards of broken glass and not be phased by it.
And what I’m about to tell you next makes me feel the same. Like I could jump straight out of a window.
That guy I told you about in the beginning, the one with the flapping soles, the one who has always felt like an outsider? He has a resilience and a tenacity in his soul like nothing I have ever seen before. He doesn’t need a stamp of approval from others to step out and pursue crazy dreams. He listens to God and follows what feels true to his heart. And when it comes to other people, he treats people with so much inclusion that they immediately feel like they belong. Like there is a seat at that awkward junior high lunch table for them despite their story, their present or their past. He notices people, whether its the homeless guy on the bench or the business man in his three piece suit sitting in the coffee shop. More than likely, he never would’ve had that ability if he didn’t first know what it felt like to be on the outside.
That woman I told you about in the beginning, the one overlooked and forgotten? She never forgets others. She searches for countless ways to make people feel remembered. She will show up with a book she heard you mention wanting to read or that item you forgot to purchase at the store. She doesn’t even realize the endless ways she serves people with the art of noticing. What a gift. People long to be noticed.
Consider this for a moment.…maybe you aren’t supposed to fit in. Maybe there is something different about you. And all of that trying to conform to fit into who you think you should be masks the very part of you that God marked to stand out.
Use your understanding of feeling on the outside for radical inclusion. Pay attention and notice that you are far from alone in feeling that way. There are people everywhere who feel left out and uninvited.
Photo cred: Mortal Flesh