Stepping into a lobby full of people, some known, others are familiar faces. The overwhelming sense of loneliness and isolation is a reality for many in these situations. Although we may come from different backgrounds and experiences, we all long for the same thing, for someone to say I choose you.
Our culture is inundated with expressions of our desire to belong. As early as elementary school, stories of lining up along the fence, during recess or gym, waiting for “team selection,” are all too common. The dread of waiting there while everyone else was selected, and the horror of being the last one. We all recognize the feelings that are attached to these stories. We simply want to be selected. For someone to choose us, not settle for us.
With hormones ranging now, the selection process continues across high school campuses where everyone is caught up in the all too real game of boy picks girl or girl picks boy. The influence of romantic movies only exacerbates the fear of rejection and loneliness. At some point we all express the same feelings as Julia Roberts character in “Notting Hill,” ‘I am just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.’
In recent years, social media has played an ever dominate role in this game. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all thrive on the number of likes, comments, and shares. YouTube users are encouraged to promote subscribers and likes to maintain their audience and influence. Those that thrive in this arena though are expressing the same desire, they want people to like them. To pick them out of thousands of posts and videos.
In a world where everyone has an opinion; opinions still matter.
This isn’t limited to “world culture,” as a microcosm of the culture around us, churches are filled with people with the same feelings. Walking through those doors does not wash them away.
Walk around our church lobbies before and after service and we will find clusters of individuals with backs turned to the outside world. We are comfortable in our tight communities. We don’t want to admit this, but the reality is deep inside all of us we long for a sense of belonging. Just as in elementary school, we simply want to sit with the cool kids, be around the popular ones, because then we can tell ourselves, I am chosen. I belong.
Sadly, there are individuals in our culture that spend much of their lives never feeling that sense of belonging. They struggle to find deep connections with other people. And in their effort to connect, social media disappoints them because they do not receive the same validation as their peers.
Rejected. Isolated. Unimportant. Invisible. Disregarded.
If you are feeling this way, the churches response may sound like a talking point:
“Know that God is with you!”
“You are not alone!”
During my personal loneliness, I have felt His undeniable presence, so I know this is very true. My physical environment did not change though. Nor does it change the perspective of the world looking from the outside. The lobby is still filled with huddled groups of turned backs.
As Christians, our calling is far greater than our physical reality. As we study the Gospels and the Epistles, we can see the Apostles spent a lot of time alone. But they understood one undeniable truth, their physical loneliness was temporary.
So, now we are without excuse. It is time to get up and walk in the freedom as one already chosen.
Peter writes, “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you – from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9-10 MSG).
So, the question may be then, what does this look like exactly?
It means start serving your church community. As a natural introvert, I began serving on the First Impressions team; far removed from my comfort level. But I have come to feel the strength of God in those moments when I did not feel like socializing.
Show up to a community group. Yes, it is terrifying. I promise, you will not be rejected. I vividly remember my first day walking into a Bible study group not knowing a single other woman in the room. Some of those women are now dear friends.
It will not be easy. I promise you. But it will build your confidence. It will destroy those feelings of isolation. It will help you understand that God choose you for a very specific purpose that only you can fulfill.