In the Margins, in the Church…

by Brenda on

I read a book by a pastor, years ago, about loving people who “live in the margins.” He was talking about the people who don’t really fit in with the usual churchy people–ex-prostitutes, people who used to be drug addicted, etc.

What he didn’t address, and what I want to address is this:

There are churchy people IN the church who are in the margins.

I’m one of them.

I think the margins of the group is one of the most difficult places to live. I’ve tried to get in. I’ve invited. I’ve participated. I’ve done what I could to be social. Still, I sit in the margins.

It’s always been that way. I just saw photos on Facebook of people I went to high school youth group with. I know their names and their faces. I doubt they remember me. It’s not like we hung out together. It’s not like I remember, ever, having more than a surface level conversation with them. I was on the sideline. I saw everything, but I wasn’t in it.

It’s been like that at every church I’ve ever gone to. In order for me to have any conversations of substance with people, to get e-mails or phone calls at all, I have to run something (I was the activities planner at one church) or work at something (I am currently a class coordinator). Without these kinds of roles, I would have zero–truly–zero outside-of-church connections with people I see on a regular basis. My inbox would be totally empty, and I’d never get a phone call…

I don’t know why I’m in the margins.

I don’t know why, though I’m friendly with people, I only end up listening to their conversations, and not being welcomed in. They talk to each other, but they don’t include me in, even though I’m standing right there. Someone else will walk up and join in, and stand in such a way that I am physically excluded from the conversation. This has happened to me so many timesIt’s awkward. Do I keep standing there? Do I go stand by myself? Do I dare attempt to join another conversation?

I cry about these things. Yes. I’m saying it publicly, because I desperately want this to change in my life.

There are activities that people I know participate in together. I think about it–everybody–everybody–with kids the same age as my kids is participating in the same activity….Why were we never invited? I wonder. It hurts.

We are in the margins.

It hurts a ton see my kids going through these very feelings. I wonder how I could have taught them differently to be more socially welcomed? My super social, friendly, outgoing son says that he doesn’t think he’ll ever be “in” at our church, and that he, too, only “listens” to conversations about things that the other boys do together, and that he wasn’t invited to. Ouch. We don’t go to church with bad people. If anything, these are some of the most mature Christians I’ve ever had the privilege of being around. So even if I’m not “in,” I do enjoy and grow from their conversations…But I wish we were in them. I wish we weren’t those “in the margin” people. The people who don’t get invited to the wedding, or the Birthday party, when people pare down the list and are intentional about inviting the people who really matter in their life. So we see Facebook photos of weddings, where we recognize the faces of nearly everyone in the crowd…but we weren’t on the guest list. That hurts, too.

We’re in the margins, even in the church. I’m in the margins. I don’t know how to change it. I’m praying. Trying. Wishing to get out…

Any thoughts about this? Why does this happen to some people? What can they do about it? What can we do to change it?

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