I spent eleven years trying to find my fit.
Eight of those years were spent trying to push my dolphin puzzle piece into a farm scene, and the following three were spent in a mixture of pretending not to care that nobody liked me, and feeling sad that I couldn’t force myself to stick to people who didn’t want to stick to me.
I was skeptical, to say the least, when I was invited to youth group at my current church.
What would be different there than everywhere else I went?
Hundreds of excuses flooded my mind. Of course I couldn’t go, I had to work in the morning, I didn’t know anybody, and to top it all off, I didn’t have a ride.
In the end, I decided to give it a try.
Despite my earlier arguments, I’m glad I did.
I can’t imagine what I looked like as I took a seat in the corner with my jacket on and still zipped up that whole first night, and I tried my best not to make eye contact with anyone.
However, the youth leaders wouldn’t let me get away with that, and they did it so smoothly that at first I didn’t even notice that I knew everyone’s names, and they all knew mine.
You know what I find crazy? I had fun that night, and went home beaming to my mother, and she must’ve asked me if I was okay at least a dozen times before I went to bed.
I was more than okay. I was accepted. I was welcomed. I was absolutely soaring within myself.
Weeks went on, and although I still kept to myself as much as possible, I felt at peace in a place I never imagined I could after years of being rejected in the exact same setting, albeit a different location.
Fast forward a few months,
Youth group was starting up again after a break (I can’t recall if it was our summer or winter break now),
All new youth, and new leaders were taking over, there was nothing familiar anymore.
The group I had come to know and love was almost entirely washed away by the tides of age, save for a few stragglers like myself.
I was terrified that the entire year would be a disaster.
God could not possibly give me more than one happy season where I fit in, it just didn’t make sense. I’d had my run of feeling like I finally fit somewhere and it was inevitable, I was going to be the outcast again because those were the cards I was dealt. I was not by any definition a likeable person, I’d always known that about myself and had at least sorta accepted it.
Opportunities arose for me to attend youth camp, and again, I made excuses as to why I couldn’t go.
Hours before I left, I was pacing the living room floor, tears streaming down my cheeks,
My mom insisted over and over again, “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to”,
Despite her words, I felt like I had to because I had already told everyone I was going, and I try my best to keep my word.
It would be fair to say that youth camp changed my life, not just because God did something amazing by healing me physically, but because He showed me that last year’s comfort was not entirely because of the people, it was because of the principles they held about living like Jesus, and not judging others, and loving one another as you love yourself. Those principles seem to run through my church as a whole, but especially through my youth group.
The group from that first year definitely was amazing, I learned a lot from those youth leaders, and I got to know some truly incredible people, but underneath the great people I met that year, God’s love was reflected from those people into my life, and that didn’t change when the youth group changed, because the new youth, and new leaders still carried the same values, and they still radiated the same qualities, and outside all of that, they were lovely individuals.
Of course, I still had days where I didn’t feel like anybody wanted me around, and sometimes I still retreated into my shell, but that had more to do with me than it did with them. After all of my searching, and three years of feeling bitter, I found a place where — more times than not — I felt safe, and welcome, and loved.