Loneliness: Trying to Fit In, In the Wrong Place

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When people say that they feel lonely or struggle with loneliness, what are they really saying? Usually they mean that when they consider a group of people, they don’t see themselves as fitting in well or being a good match with the members of that group. They see all the other members of that particular group as relating betterl and having more in common.

It’s quite the feeling to be in a room full of people and yet feel alone. Even if they see you as fitting in with them externally, you know internally that you just do not “click” with these persons. You may dress similarly, you may worship similarly, and you may be of the same age range, educational level, and background. But even with all of those things in common, you can yet feel terribly alone.

But what does it truly mean to “fit in”?

While driving home after bible study one Tuesday night, an image flashed in my mind of one of those icing funnels that you squeeze icing into in order to write words on cakes. And the words, “trying to fit something big into something small” came to mind. In the image, there was a lot of icing that was being made to be compressed into a small shape that it did not fit very well into. And it made the icing feel uncomfortable and pressured. And that’s sometimes how you can feel when you’re trying to make yourself fit into an environment  in which you don’t really belong.

In order to “fit” into a place where you do not belong, the following has to occur: you have to change your God-given shape in order to make it appear as if you were originally intended to be in the place in which you are trying to fit in. Take for instance a puzzle piece. If you have a puzzle like the one I have in my children’s classroom, it contains three puzzle pieces. Because all three pieces are very different, you cannot place them comfortably in the wrong spot. And if you attempted to do so, you would leave the correct puzzle piece to go to another spot in which it too does not belong.

Collective works

When you are where you do not belong, you are in someone else’s proper place. For example, if you are in a romantic relationship in which you do not belong, you are not merely taking up space, but you are taking up someone else’s rightful place. It is best that you find where you belong.

But what does it mean to belong though? I see belong as a root word of the word “belonging”. If something is my belonging, then it belongs to me. In order to know where you belong, you need to know whose belonging you are. I would like to consider the story of Adam and Eve to drive this point home.

Adam and Eve were like a match made in heaven. They are one couple that we can all say, without a shadow of a doubt, that were put together by God. We know full well that God put these two together even considering the issue they had concerning the fruit and the serpent. We know that God intended for these two to be together because Eve was a belonging of Adam’s in that she was Adam’s rib. She was literally contrived from one of Adam’s twelve pair of ribs. She was what we could call a puzzle piece from his body puzzle. She belonged to him because she was his belonging.

But let’s go further. Oftentimes we try to link up with just any body because we THINK we would fit or because we will try our hardest to fit. But is that what Eve had to do? Did she have to make Adam her “soulmate”? No, because with Adam was where she belonged.

We will always feel out of place when we try to fit into the wrong puzzle. At my job, I have two puzzles that come to mind. I have an apple puzzle and a duck puzzle. The apple puzzle contains five apples of different sizes even thought they are all the same shape. And even though they are the same shape, they will not properly “snap” into the right missing place because they were not cut from that shape. The same goes for the duck puzzle. There are three ducks, but they are in three different positions; one has the duck wading on top of water, the other has the duck diving into the water, and the third position has the duck flying in the air. Even though all three positions are of depictions the same duck, the three pieces will not fit into another’s place. This is the case for obvious reasons, but also to go a little deeper, we have to understand that the puzzle pieces were cut from a once whole wooden picture. The picture of the three ducks and five apples were already painted onto a wooden canvas. And a die-cut was made to cut out the shapes from the wooden canvas. So it wasn’t as if the puzzle was made with HOLES; the puzzle was originally made WHOLE just as Adam was made whole. Then after some time, God put a hole in Adam in his rib cage by cutting Eve out of his rib cage.

The place where you belong is the place you were cut out of. You will always feel out of place until you find that place. Don’t just find SOME place, ANY place, or just A place and expect to fit in perfectly because the truth is that you were taken out of a particular place. Eve was not just taken out of one man and expected to link up with any man. God knows where He wants you. And He allows you to feel lonely until you find that place.

If you try to settle and just try to fit in anywhere, you will be like that icing crammed into that funnel tube. To try to fit where you do not belong will require the following from you: you will have to cut off parts of yourself in order to fit in. You cannot be all of you and expect to fit into every place you try to squeeze into. In order to fit into some churches, you will have to cut off parts of yourself. In order to fit into certain cliques, you will have to cut off parts of yourself. In order to date certain people, you will have to cut off parts of yourself. Remember that you will never have to cut off parts of yourself in order to fit where you belong. You will never have to cut off parts of yourself in order to fit where you were cut out of because where you came from will fit you perfectly being that you left a You-Shaped puzzle piece in that puzzle.

Jesus never fit in on earth because He was not originally from earth. He came from heaven. He fits perfectly in heaven because He came from heaven. Likewise, you will never fit in with that man or that woman, because they do not belong to you or vice-versa; you are trying to fit into someone else’s man or woman. You will never fit in with that set of coworkers, because that is not the job God wants you at. You will never fit in at that church because God may want you at another one. You will never fit in in that particular city because God wants you moving somewhere else.

So we see that loneliness is not just a temporary feeling like happiness or sadness. Loneliness is an indication that you have not yet found your niche. It is an indication that you are in the wrong place. And what is important to note is that you may have fit in with a particular group or place at a certain time, but as you have grown, you have outgrown that place or those persons. As you change, so will your environment. You may be big trying to squeeze into a cramped space just to be alone.

And ultimately, you will have outgrown earth in order to realize that it’s time for you to fit into heaven. Let your loneliness motivate you to pray that God take you to where and who you belong!

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Church Hurts: Chapter 6 – “Birthday Girl”

Chapter 6 – Birthday Girl

Terita pressed 7 on her cellphone to buzz in her guests at the gate. She had invited about 30 people to her birthday get-together and about fifteen were here so far. And of course, some of those guests took the liberty to invite a few other friends so she expected many more people. She was glad she had asked the caterer to bring extra food. Every time she pressed 7, she waited anxiously for Dave to knock at the door. But still no sight of him. He had replied to her text late Saturday night saying that he would try to attend. But she needed him to be here. She had long-term plans for him. And they began tonight.

She looked back at her bedroom mirror to reapply her hot pink lipstick. She looked flawless. Her dark-almond shaped eyes sparkled as she batted her thick false lashes at her reflection. Her smile revealed two perfect rows of neat, white teeth thanks to the thousands she had paid for veneers two years back. She had two dimples perforating the center of her cheek. She had three earrings in a row in her left ear – the side with the short hair. She had curled the long side of her hair into ringlets which cascaded down her face and shoulder with variegated highlights. Her beautician had told her she would run the risk of looking “ghetto” with the hair color, but Terita just shrugged. What the hey? It was Memphis. When in Rome, she had told her.

When she heard a knock at the door, she heard one of the attendants say, “Who is it? Oh, hey, it’s Dave, y’all! The door’s unlocked.” Her smile became wider and her dimples became deeper. She slipped out of her flats and into her high-heeled hot pink, bejeweled Christian Louboutin pumps. She knew her strut would get her the attention she wanted.

She turned the corner out of her bedroom into her front room. She exclaimed, “Hi, Dave! I’m glad you could make it. She gave him a big hug as he told her happy birthday. He handed her a card. She wondered if there was money in it but knew it would be tacky to check right now. She’d wait. She told him to grab a plate and to get something to eat. After he did so and greeted the guests who were all mutual friends of theirs, he sat on a stool at the bar counter between her kitchen and front room. Terita sat down beside him. Lucky for her, there were only two barstools there, so that would greatly decrease their chances of being interrupted.

“I’m so glad you could make it,” Terita beamed at him like an outgoing five-year old. She laid her hand on the back of his hand to drive home the point. “Well, of course I’d be here. You know you and me go way back.” Terita had been the girlfriend of one of Dave’s closest friends back in high school. They were known as the popular church kids who had nice clothes and well-educated parents. There was a group of nine of them that hung out all the time. Most of them were musicians or singers. Terita was talented in liturgical dance. Dave could play the guitar well, but he was most popular for having the richest granddad in the county. They went to private schools and vacation bible school together every summer. They attended the most anticipated revivals in the city together. They dated the most popular, well-dressed, most talented, and wealthiest of the church “elite”.

Church Elitism was quite obvious in their denomination. It was something like a caste system. A social order so speak. At the bottom were the poorest. They dressed most modestly. The women typically wore ankle-length jean skirts and flats. Their women and girls frequented inexpensive clothing stores like Cato’s, Simply Fashions, and Rainbow. They would wear their relaxed hair in low ponytails or home-rolled curls. Some would wear outdated hairstyles like fingerwaves and pompadours. They were humble, but tended to be more judgmental. They usually came from small towns in the Dirty South or the Midwest. And because they came from small towns, they had small town mindsets.

Next in pecking order were the middle-class bunch. They could afford to shop at stores at the mall and outlets. They were usually college-educated. They worked from paycheck to paycheck just as the poorer one’s did only without any government assistance only they had decent paychecks. Some would usually look in pity at the lower “caste” and look up in admiration and aspiration at the upper class.

And then there was the upper echelon. This was where people like Dave and Terita resided. They were the sons and granddaughters of jurisdictional bishops, their parents and uncles were politicians and successful business owners in their cities, most of the people they associated with had master’s or doctoral level degrees. They lived in neighborhoods often as the sole black family on their block. And they wore this privilege proudly. They had tailor-made suits, they could afford real animal skins for coats, shoes, and purses, and they shopped solely at boutiques or either had their clothes custom-made. Their memberships were coveted because their tithes alone were enough to sustain the church more than 200 of the other members’ tithes could. They had the highest titles in the denomination. They married the most beautiful women of etiquette. Their women were members of social clubs and their menfolk were members of exclusive country clubs.

Everyone at Terita’s birthday party was of the higher order. There was Barry the church pianist from the megachurch down the street. His father was pastor there. There was Sheila who had just graduated from Harvard law school following in her mother’s footsteps. There was Marcus who had been successful at opening a male suits clothing store with fine suits that he and his twin brother designed and sold to gospel artists. Lucinda was there. She was a niece of her aunt who was also a member of a famous gospel group that started in the late 80’s. Her aunt had raised her when he mother had died unexpectantly when she was five. Anthony’s father had just been re-elected as the Memphis City School’s superintendent; it was his third term. He saw to it that Anthony never had to pay a bill. Melissa and her sister Megan sat on the couch sipping their punch. They were somewhat antisocial. Their claim to fame was a father and mother who had graduated from MIT as engineers. They were just as smart and withdrawn as their parents.

And then there was Terita. Her dwindling wealth came from her charismatic charm with successful and prosperous men. Terita was brought up poor, but fortunately she had good looks and a great personality. She used these assets to her advantage. She had met a much, much older widowed bishop who was quite lucky in the stock markets. He wanted a PYT to share his riches with. Terita heeded the call. She saw this as her chance to ascend the church ranks. Her plan worked as they always had. After a brief marriage that ended in his timely death from old age, Terita was a young widow who had inherited all of his wealth being as her deceased husband had no children or any other beneficiaries. He had loved her and would have left her everything even if he had had children. However, her shopping addiction did not afford her any wise spending habits so she was losing money hand over first. Whereas before she had enough to last her for a lifetime, she now only had enough to last her the next five years or so. And she had no intentions of slowing down. She had to find a new donor. Dave looked as if he’d fit the part. She was no longer heralded as the youngest bishop’s wife. To be in the elite, it was not enough just to have money and nice possessions. You had to currently hold a high title or be known for your skill at a thing. Terita knew she did not want to go down in church history as the old bishop’s widow who excelled at church mime until she died old, wrinkly, broke, and alone. She figured this time that she ought not just to marry rich, but to marry rich and young. Her mistake was that she had married rich and old. And as much as that man loved her, she didn’t care that the old man had passed. She was disgusted every time he touched her. Every time she went to bed with him, she had to remind herself to do it for the money.

“Happy Birthday, Terita! So, Terita, when’s the last time you talked to Stephen?” Dave was referring to his friend, her ex. “Oh, it’s funny you ask. He sent me a happy birthday message on Facebook as soon as it was midnight.” “Oh, well that’s cool. You do know he’s single now. Things didn’t work out with that Marissa girl. She was too clingy. Called the man all day. Asking what he ate, who he was hanging out with, and all kinda questions. He had to let her go. But yeah. He asked me about you the other day,” Dave said trying to do as Stephen had asked in trying to hook them back up with each other. “That’s interesting. Marissa did seem kind of stalker-ish. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m kinda interested in another guy. No offense, but I’m kind of over him. The past is the past. Like your granddad says, ‘Out with the old, in with the new.’ I’m looking at something new.” “Oh, really? And who just might this be?” Dave inquired curiously. “You know the guy. He’s real cute,” Terita hinted. “Is it that Derek guy who’s been visiting our church lately?” “No, not him. Don’t try to guess because I’m not going to tell you who it is. Not yet. Real soon though.” Terita grinned.

Interrupting their conversation was Anthony bearing a red velvet cake with sparkling candles covered with fondant icing in the replica of a Louis Vuitton bag. She beamed from ear to ear as her wealthy friends belted out an ethnic rendition of the happy birthday song. They surrounded her as she closed her eyes and a made a wish. She only hoped Dave would cooperate in fulfilling it.