It’s 1 am. I’m sitting in my car, in the silence, just thinking about the difference between you and someone that actually cares about me. My cheeks hurt from smiling too much, my mind is exhausted from trying to convince myself that I’m not in fact dissatisfied, and my heart aches from the loneliness you’ve made me feel.
It’s earlier in the evening. I’m driving over in my car, practicing my smile, and hoping that this time around will be different. This time around, you’ll include me in the conversation. This time around, you’ll actually care when I walk into the room. This time around, the dissonance between my heart and my mind will have been assuaged.
But this time around doesn’t happen, because when I walk into the room, you don’t see. In fact, you go out of your way to ignore me. And I hate that. But even still, when you do talk to me, I give you my full attention. I don’t interrupt, I don’t cut you off – instead, I listen. However, you feel it necessary to make me feel as if I’m an outsider. You don’t explain the jokes, you disregard my questions, you make me into someone small; a miniscule little ant to be squished into the pavement. Why? Why do you do this to me? I’m giving you my full attention in a conversation, I let you know that I hear you, I let you know that you are important; the words you’re saying are of the utmost importance to me – so, why?
This has been an ongoing struggle of mine. These feelings of exasperation in regards to people and their refusal to acknowledge my presence have plagued me forever. I’ve experienced situations in which I have been overlooked completely countless times. It happens in my family, it happens in communities that advertise themselves as “welcoming,” and it happens with supposed friends. I used to go to a school that did just that. When I would attempt to get involved with the religious community there, I would be discounted. My words didn’t hold any weight because I wasn’t someone active in their ministry. Therefore, my whole personhood didn’t hold weight and was subsequently snubbed. And how it frustrated me! I mean, this was a Catholic community! Didn’t that mean that you were supposed to go out of your way to make someone feel welcomed? Didn’t that mean that you were supposed to go out of your way to make sure no one felt excluded? So why? Why was it that there was an innumerable amount of individuals on campus that felt rejected by the very ministry meant to form bonds?
I’m a part of many religious communities. And something I’ve noticed is that no matter how hard I try, infiltrating the cliques that these communities have built up is a struggle. And I’m not the only one to feel this way. I’m involved with a community now that promotes feelings of exclusion not only for me – but for a lot of its members. I’ve talked to these people and they just shrug their shoulders in defeat because they literally haven’t the faintest idea of how to counteract the rudeness and unwelcoming attitude they are received with.
I used to shrug with them. I used to sigh along with the chorus of surrender and think that one day, it would get better. But not anymore. I’m tired of being tired.
I spent a weekend with a group of girls, varying in age, and it was one of the best weekends I’ve had since forever. When someone talked, we all listened. When there was an activity, we all partook in it. We nodded our heads when words were being said, to let the other person know that they were being heard. We gave feedback when merited, open ears when asked for, and smiles to show love. That weekend we saw Jesus through each other. Christ was everywhere. You could see Him in the tears that were shed; the laughter that was shared. It was great. It was better than great – it was amazing! I started thinking about the other communities I was a part of; the communities that didn’t do these things. And I became very sad at this train of thought because these were the communities meant to bring people to Jesus! These were the communities that were meant to make you feel wanted! And they were failing at it!
Excuse my use of exclamation points, but this subject makes me passionate. As Christians – it is our DUTY to be love. It is our DUTY to share in Christ’s compassion. That means making the newcomer feel welcomed. That means sitting with the lone person in the corner of the room. That means listening to the words being spoken, and I mean ACTIVELY listening. Because when we don’t do those things; when we don’t show love to the people who need it the most – we’re re-writing Jesus’ words. We’re telling the unloved, the unwelcomed, the disregarded…we’re telling them that Jesus wants everyone – but just not them.
It’s 1 am. I’m sitting on a couch, surrounded by laughter and smiles, just thinking about the amazingly apparent beauty that Jesus has given to the people I am spending my time with. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much, my mind is alive with the conversations we’ve had, and my heart aches from the amount of love it has for the moment I am currently in; the people I am currently with.
This is Jesus. And Jesus wants you.