The little boy walked out of the classroom and on to the crowded school playground. Everywhere he looked, he could see kids. Kids chatting away happily. Kids playing games excitedly. Kids chugging down sandwiches ravenously. Lots of happy, contented, comfortable kids … except one.
The little boy walked slowly across the playground, hoping that someone would say something to him. They didn’t. He stopped to watch a soccer game optimistically, hoping someone would invite him to join. They didn’t. Finally, awkwardly, he reached a bench by the fence under a tree. He sat down, alone, and began to chew on his lunch, trying all the time to look as if he was deep in thought, and sitting alone by choice.
Of course, he wasn’t.
Have you ever had an experience like this? If you have, then you probably grew up with a fear of being the outcast. you will understand perfectly the horror of the kind of situation I have just described. There’s no doubt about it: being the stranger, the outcast, must be one of the worst experiences in the world.
Or is it?
There was one Outcast who didn’t seem to mind very much. He sort of hung around with other outcasts and strangers, until He sort of made His own little circle that every stranger could feel a part of. This new circle was well outside the normal ‘in crowd’, and most of those in the in crowd smirked and then wondered, and then grew jealous and decided to squish it. But the nice thing is that although they thought they squished it, it is still growing bigger.
Even now, strangers and outcasts are finding this society of outcasts, and being welcomed with open arms. In fact, most people don’t ever find their way into it until they are outcasts and strangers. Which means that you generally don’t get in unless you’re pretty down and out, at the end of your tether, on your last legs, and any other metaphor you can think of.
Funnily enough, we spend most of our lives pretty much trying to avoid joining this group, and thus never get to meet it’s wonderful Founder. We invest a tremendous amount of effort and time into fitting in and making ourselves feel at home. We do this in a hundred different ways. We are doing it when we laugh at that crude joke, or let ourselves get so attached to that electronic gadget, or feel that we are part of the furniture at work.
I learned how to be a stranger at a young age when my family had to move from the house I had grown up in. I loved that house! On the last day, I even secretly gave the wall a kiss to say goodbye (I was pretty young). I learned that day that it is painful to be too attached to any material thing on this earth, because sooner or later, you were going to have to lose it, and then it would feel like you were losing a part of yourself. Better not to let it become such an important part of yourself in the first place!
But you have to be attached to something. No one can live their life in a sort of free fall! Every single one of us has to belong somewhere. Enter the Stranger. The nice thing about Him is that He will never disappear on you. Never. Ever. When you feel you belong to Him, you feel like you don’t need to belong to anything else. You have your identity, you know who you are, you know where your house is (and your treasure and your heart also).
… and we too who are sojourners in this world, keep us in Your faith, and grant us Your peace until the end …