Everyone knows that playgrounds are the perfect place for profound and meaningful conversations. Especially if your conversational partner is a five-year-old with delightfully deep insights.
Elena wanted to do her own thing in the sandbox, so when Stella approached me with a smile, I was happy to talk with her. As her caregiver chatted nearby on a cell phone, Stella sat beside us and offered a shy greeting with her soulful brown eyes. We quickly established that she had just had her first week of kindergarten, that the class was awful because she was seated beside a boy, and that PBnJ really ought to have grape jelly instead of strawberry because of the icky seeds. Once past this, I asked her a question I believed to be quite simple.
“How do you like school so far?”
She paused to make a pile of sand in the box and place a flat stone on top. “I never want to go back.”
“Maybe you need to get used to it.” Starting school was a huge life change for a girl used to being only with her mother all day.
“No, I just don’t think I’m ready.”
She then poured out, with pink-faced sincerity, her description of “school.” Not only did other kids make fun of her clothes, which were less than trendy but otherwise fine, but they picked on her nose and her glasses, too. They did it to all the kids–any little thing that stood out, good or bad, seemed to draw their attention. This is nothing new, but to this little girl, it was.
“I want to be friends with them, but I don’t know how to be funny like them.”
This struck me in the gut. “Are they funny?” I asked. “Is it funny, what they say about other kids?”
She shrugged. “It makes people laugh.”
We talked a little about this, but here’s what I really wanted to say (with a huge hug around her slender shoulders). Stella, please don’t ever EVER learn how to be like them. You would be un-learning your natural sweet spirit, with attitudes more mature and godly than most adults. Your sensitive heart is a good thing–use it for good, and don’t change it. But mostly, this–you are stepping out into a broken world of children who are often mean and selfish. If you fit into that world, then YOU are the wrong size.
It’s taken me a while to learn one simple fact–not fitting in is OK sometimes. In fact, it’s GREAT. If we as believers were comfortable in a broken, sinful, selfish world, what does that say about us?
It has nourished my heart in times of deep distress to realize that we were never intended to feel comfortable here. God did not design us for what we have now.
When my husband sent me to Lowes recently, I bought a connector for a construction project he was doing. I was so excited to help out, but when I got home, he showed me how it was the wrong type–it had the threads on the outside, and they needed to be on the inside to connect with the existing pipes. It didn’t work out because it had been purchased to do something it was never created to do, and I couldn’t change that.
The way life is now is not the way our Creator intended it. So if we feel uncomfortable here, you know what? That’s ok. In fact, that’s AWESOME. The more time I invest in deep study of Scripture, the more I feel at odds with the world–like a clear dissonance I cannot quite get over. There are certain “norms” that I cannot wrap my head around. Many parts of life just seem so messy and, well, wrong. And why not? The things of God are often starkly opposite of this world.
Be okay with feeling at odds here, and accept that life is not comfortable. Expect to face opposition. Because, in reality, if believers fit snugly into this world, we would absolutely be the wrong size.
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)