Poodle Skirts and Loneliness

I remember looking through a 4th grade yearbook the summer after having moved.  Our family had just moved across the ocean and I was missing my old friends.  I found a picture in the back that I hadn't seen previously and it was of me and 4 other girls.  It was a picture from "Fifties Day."  As I looked at the picture I remembered the night prior and how my family and I were scrambling to find some kind of fifties apparel at the last minute because we had forgotten about it.  We had a hard time finding anything and I ended up at school looking more like I thought it was Gypsy Day.  In the captured picture I am standing there all gypsy-like, smiling ear to ear, while my friends who were in the picture with me, were dressed perfectly in poodle skirts and bouncy pony-tails.  They were squeezed together in an effort to lean as far away from me as possible.

As I looked at the picture and realized what was captured in it, my face turned red and I felt something like a dream where one speaks but no one can hear.  I felt alone and embarrassed.

This wouldn't be my first marked memory of feeling lonely or excluded.  There would be many more to come.  I hesitated to write about this because it's much more than a lonely 4th grader's sob story.  I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me or 4th grade me.  I wanted to write about it because I believe unexpected good and depth has come from lots of moments like these in my life.

As I mom, I cringe and my heart aches at the mere thought of my own littles ever feeling lonely or left out or purposefully excluded.  I hate it and my first reaction is to get all mama-bear.  But then again, do I really want my kids to grow up without any depth of understanding or true empathy towards those that are in this kind of situation?  I long for my boys to grow up with strong, compassionate (feeling + action), brave hearts that move towards others and that can see and search for Jesus everywhere they go.   It's a much more sickening heart-break in an altogether different way, to imagine them growing up to be the kind of boys and men who just want to "fit in" and who choose to only be with those who "fit in," and do not fight for those who don't.

It was moments like these that taught me to notice when someone is left out.  It taught me to care about those that feel different or might not fit in to whatever shallow box some random group of (mostly likely shallow and fearful) people are saying they should fit into.

Times of loneliness can teach the eye and heart to see Jesus like nothing else.   It can bring us to his heart and grow our own hearts for others.

One of my favorite books as a child was Crow Boy.  I devoured it over and over again, feeling sad when the main character is left out and asking my parents over and over again why he was left out and why he did things differently or why he came from a different background.  And I loved and never tired of the 2nd half of the story when someone noticed the beauty of crow boy's differences and how good came from the sad.

If you are feeling lonely today, turn to Jesus who knows you, sees you and understands the depths of loneliness like NO other.

Maybe I could have dressed more perfectly that spring day years ago.  If only I hadn't forgotten or if only my parents had esteemed dressing up for a decades day the most important thing in the universe....  Perhaps I would have been spared the moment of embarrassment and the feeling of loneliness months later when I looked through my yearbook.  But I wonder if not having that loss -the loss of "fitting in" in that moment, along with moments that were to come, would have brought me a greater loss of heart in the end.

In Philippians 3:7-10,  Paul wrote, this:  "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

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