Back in high school, I remember talking to a friend about what they had studied in youth group on Sunday. His answer shocked me; he said they talked about me. I didn’t really know what he meant by that so he laid it out for me. He said most of the Sundays I wasn’t there (he was probably exaggerating) they talked about me. The other kids didn’t really like me, they thought I was weird and kind of out there. I was loud and obnoxious and didn’t act right. Needless to say I was crushed.
I wasn’t really allowed to go to youth group. I had come to Christ on March 1 of my sophomore year (1990?). This dramatic event combined with my explosive brand of teenage rebellion caused a lot of friction in my household. Going to youth group caused problems for me at home—it meant I was sneaking out or breaking curfews (designed to keep me from youth group @ 6 on Sundays). I paid for going. And then I found out they didn’t want me there.
After I came to Christ, I felt this overwhelming sense of acceptance. My heart overflowed with love. I started going to church and felt like I was part of a community that felt the same way. I loved all the people at church, especially the other youth. People took an interest in me and one of the youth workers started to disciple me (Thanks James!). I thought the other kids felt the same way I did, but they didn’t.
It was probably my pride that made me stick it out. They were going to accept me… like it or not. And eventually they did. The church became home to me and a tremendous blessing to me (Thanks Birchwood!).
But that day I talked to my friend has stuck with me. It has been a thorn that has festered inside me and affected my relationships. I am always self-conscious when I am around out a group. I don’t really commit—I hang around on the outside. I don’t want to have to fight to become part of a community. I wait to be asked; I want to be courted. But its weird, I want to belong, but I don’t want to seem like I want to belong- so basically I put off this leave me alone vibe.
Back in college, when I had to find a church I made up this rule that if no one talked to me (not counting a pastor or those awkward times when you have to shake a neighbor’s hand) then it wasn’t the church for me. I quickly burned through almost every church in that little community. So I decided that I would attend each church three times to give people a chance to talk to me. After three or four churches I gave up. It was too painful. I stopped going. Eventually, I did find a church (Thanks Rock Church!) in the next town over.
I’m not trying to say that churches shouldn’t be hospitable. I think how well you are received at a church may be a fine way to decide if that is a place that can become your worship community, but in my case it was (is) pride that kept me away. I didn’t want to be needy. I didn’t want to seem weak. I didn’t want to appear like I needed them. But of course I did (do). I need community. I need fellowship. I need a place where I am loved, accepted, and known.
This weird need not to appear needy has shown its way in other aspects of my life. I don’t think I have every requested a friend on FaceBook… (oh wait I just thought of two I made a little while ago when I was feeling convicted about pride).
Its strange the way little things carry with you affect who you become. Pray for me as I try to humble myself.
Anyway that’s my story… what’s yours?