I did something today I haven't done in years. Years.
The unpacking took an unexpected detour when I came across my high school yearbook. I sat down on the floor, and dared to crack open the pages. I was surprised at what greeted me. Not simply memories and faces I haven't thought of ages, but the feelings...
(And the hair! Let's just say there was big hair, big bangs and lots of hair spray!)
It was very bittersweet. I was not a popular kid in high school, and even the friends I had knew that I was "different" than them. I was "religious." They weren't. I was a goody-two-shoes. They tolerated me, but never really understood. I simply wanted friends. I wanted some company on the bumpy road of adolescence. I had a few good friends, and one "first love" whom I still remember fondly. Other than that, high school was rough.
I wouldn't have done it any other way, but I have to be honest about how hard it was to be a "good" girl and remain true to my faith and the virtues my parents instilled in me. There were many, many times I cried my heart out, and yelled at God, thinking He was ruining my fun, making me a dork and an outcast. Loneliness was a heavy load in my backpack at times. Belonging is so important at that age, and I just wanted to know what it felt like to belong, if only for a few minutes.
Of course, maturity and perspective have taught me how blessed I was back then, and all that I was spared precisely because of my faith and my decision not to abandon God. Now, sitting on my floor with my own children down the hall, those teenage trials seem like another lifetime of a different person. It is clear the grace of God was with me, protecting me, and keeping me despite my resistance at times! Thank you, Jesus, for strengthening me to choose You over "belonging." I can see now that the belonging I sought was an illusion because the ones I wanted to belong to had nothing to offer me but heartache, empty promises and fickle loyalty.
Yet, as I flipped through those old pages, that loneliness pricked my heart again, and I thought how glad I am that high school is over and I'd never go through that again for all the money in the world.
It is easier now as an adult to go against the crowd, yet I know there are still moments when it seems like it might be fun to do what everyone else is doing in order not to feel so different and set apart. Thankfully, those moments are fleeting and I can now recognize it for what it is, just run-of-the-mill human nature and weakness. Even more thankfully, I also feel the call to be set apart for holiness and I find that call more compelling now than the lure of belonging to the crowd. How sweet it is to be more drawn to Him than to the world.
The things is, I'm not sure I would know that now if I hadn't suffered through the loneliness. That's how it works.
I hope I am wiser than I was twenty years ago, and now the real challenge is to help my daughters navigate their own growing-up years and make it safely to adulthood. Now that scares the bejeebers out of me!! It's a different world than where I came from! (And I feel old!)
Yet He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The yearning to belong never changes and we all feel it. We must simply know to whom we belong and rest our longing hearts in Him.
Oh Jesus, may my sweet girls always know that they belong to You - body, mind and soul. When they feel the loneliness of being set apart, draw them closer to You and increase their hunger for only You. You are the one true Friend to us all.