I don’t belong.
Have you ever felt this way?
Maybe it’s just me. But I’ve sort of felt this way off and on my whole life. I never truly feel like I belong in most friend groups. I feel like I’m too loud, too awkward, too young and naive (if the friends are a few years older than me), or too old and unrelatable (if the friends are a few years younger than me). Mostly, I just have never felt like I can let my guard down and truly be myself. When I’m really upset, I recluse. Brian is really the only one who knows. And if I do open up to someone else, I feel like I’m annoying them or boring them with my problem. Even as I type this I’m thinking, dude, they do not want to hear you whine!
But I have a point. I promise :).
This past weekend, I celebrated my 20 year high school reunion. I was actually on the planning committee. The people who know me now would not be surprised by this. I LOVE event planning and organizing things. But I promise you, the people who knew 1995-1999 Nora never expected that I would be planning our 20th reunion or that I would be welcoming everyone and making introductions.
They remember this Nora:
This Nora had spent her Freshman and Sophomore years focused on a boyfriend and having fun. She had been mostly a B student and had no real direction. This Nora became pregnant and had a child at the age of 16. This Nora had to fight for the right to remain in her high school and not be sent to an alternative program at another school for behavior problem students where she and all the other pregnant girls would have been forced to take remedial English and Math. This Nora spent her Junior and Senior years trying to prove that she was a serious, college-bound student who was going to prove the statistics wrong.
Only 40% of teenage moms finish high school and just 2% finish college. I was determined to be in that 2%. (Source: National Conference of State Legislatures)
I was called things like “loser”, “fat” (and all other creative adjectives that describe overweight), “whore” (even though I had only had one boyfriend) and, my personal favorite, “tissue”… that last one came from a boy who remarked on the large size of my breasts and how I must stuff my bra. Thus, the name “tissue”. But the names didn’t hurt nearly as bad as the whispers and stares from students and even teachers. And the rumors. Too many to recall or list here. It just felt like people would rather believe and spread a lie they heard about me rather than come and ask me to my face.
Obviously, I didn’t feel like I belonged for much of high school.
My junior and senior year, I joined the staff of The Central Times. I was first the Feature Editor and then, Editor-in-Chief. The opportunity fueled my love of writing and I learned what it meant to write a hard-hitting expose on things like the bus drivers smoking on school property or feature stories on some of our beloved teachers or students. One such interview changed the course of my life.
In the fall of 1998, I decided to feature our senior class president, Tim. Tim appeared on the class officer scene out of no where. The same officers had been elected the three years prior and out of no where, Tim won by a landslide and everyone was talking about this guy who was literally a friend to everyone. He could hang with the popular kids, the jocks, the band geeks, the grunge kids, the loners, the newspaper nerds… all of us. Everyone knew Tim and everyone LOVED Tim. But I had never even heard this guy’s name before senior year so I was dying to know his story. I received approval to make him our next Student of the Month and we sat down for our interview. As I sat there with my list of questions, he pretty much took over and gave me his testimony. He had been lost. He had toyed around with drugs. He did not grow up in church. A friend invited him to a youth event. He accepted Jesus. And he had decided to spend the rest of his life pointing other people to Jesus. I was captivated by his story. I’ve shared before, I was far from God during these years. I didn’t doubt God existed… I just didn’t think of myself as one of those “church girls”. His joy was overwhelming. And I longed to know what that felt like to have that much peace. I wanted to know the Jesus he knew. The Jesus who could transform a C/D student on the path to drug overdose to a disciple, ready to preach a sermon to anyone who would listen.
Tim and I became friends in our English class that year and I continued to be amazed at his positive attitude and ability to relate to everyone.
After graduation, Tim grabbed me as I walked passed him in the hallway. He hugged me and said, “I’m SO proud of you.” He had no idea how much those words meant to me. And he never would.
A month later, Tim died in a tragic car accident. At his funeral, which was much more of a giant worship celebration, over 40 people accepted Jesus. His funeral was where I heard the song, “Testify to Love” by Avalon for the first time and I became obsessed with it for months. The experience along with many others are what led me to going to church and rededicating my life to Christ at the age of 21. I wish it didn’t take me 3 years to process and accept this life change, but I still know Tim would be proud :).
The friends I started high school with were not the same friends I ended with. And honestly, in all of those friendships, I felt out of place. Sort of like the fifth wheel. And I don’t think it was their fault. And I don’t think it was completely mine. Somewhere in the middle maybe? Or maybe I never felt like I belonged because really, none of us belong in this world. I think Tim knew he didn’t belong in this world either.
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” John 15:18-19
So. If you feel like you don’t belong, you’re not alone. Remember, Jesus felt that way first. The good news is, WE ALL BELONG in the Kingdom of God. If you don’t know what in the world I mean by that or what that looks like, please send me a message and we can chat! At Jesus’ table, you will NEVER hear “you can’t sit with us”. There will always be a seat at the table for you and you will never feel too awkward or annoying or loud. He will love you just as you are.