This last weekend, deer season for youth rifle started in Alabama. That means my husband and son were out in the deer blind whenever they had extra time. About 4 hours before church on Sunday, I heard the shot in our back pasture. I knew a young buck had wandered into the line of sight of an eager 8-year-old hunter.
The boys excitedly tried to convince me to go track the deer with them. I had zero desire to go tromping through the woods looking for drops of blood while avoiding thorny vines and ticks. I had a long to-do list to accomplish. I was still in my PJs. Coffee had just started brewing.
I can just imagine the ladies of the Iron Porch all coming up with valid reasons why I should NOT go smashing through the woods!
While all of those statements were truthful, they really are excuses to not accompany my husband and son on the trail of a dead or soon-to-be-dead deer.
Excuses? Why you ask? (I mean, besides the obvious that I hadn’t had coffee and was still braless!). The reason is that when I go with the boys on hunting adventures I feel like an outsider.
There’s showmanship and male bonding that is occurring that makes me feel like I’m an outsider. The high-fives and fist bumps…the wiping of blood on cheeks…the chuckles about peeing out of the deer blind. All of which makes me feel like I’m not in on the joke. It makes me feel like I’m not in the “inner circle.”
How often are people coming up with excuses to not go to church because they feel like the outsider?
The parallels between the outsider on a hunting or tracking adventure and that of church attendance weighed heavily on me throughout the day. I started to consider if I was inclusive or exclusive while I was at church. Did I encourage the new visitor to sit with me? Did I show her where her babies would be safely cared for while she recharged in the sanctuary? Did I pray with the gal who is struggling with her teenage daughter?
Did I sit in the same spot? Do I notice that certain couples only socialize with themselves? Did I greet the same people that I do week after week? Are there cliques at my church? Does social media tell a story that is different from what I see in the sanctuary? Did I chat with the same moms near the children’s area? Did I make eye contact with anyone new?!?!?!?
You see, I think we occasionally make people feel like the outsider even when we are the church. We may not do it intentionally, but there are times where we are more consumed with our own personal connections that we fail to create personal connections for those around us.
I’ve been a recipient of this behavior in church. There was a scenario where I wanted to make a connection with a gal, but over time I noticed this lady was uninterested in anyone who was not already in her small circle. That stung a bit. It made me feel unworthy. She may not have intended to have that reputation, but it was the predominate view of her relationship skills.
As a result of that personal example, I’ve tried my best to be more receptive to conversations. I’m not perfect, however, so I know that there are times that I am drawn towards those I already know.
The next time that I notice myself be less inclusive, I’m going to be mindful to ensure that others are feeling a part of the larger group.
I know what it’s like to be an outsider. In church and in hunting.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. ~Romans 15:7 (NIV)