There might not be a place for you in the church: And that’s a good thing

If you know me at all–whether it’s just through my blog or whether you’re one of my co-workers or even my best friend back in Idaho–you know how I feel about fitting in. Scratch that. I simply don’t fit in. And chances are, neither do you. If you’ve read some of my past blogs, you know very well that I’m an advocate for the black sheep. And often times, the black sheep can even wear the white wool. Believe me.

Over the course of keeping this blog I’ve had the honor of meeting so many kinds of people. People who homeschool their children and can peaches on Sunday. People who struggle with mental illness. People who have had everyone in their family die and who literally live alone and have no one to call. People who were raised in Utah and long to break out. People who run businesses and people who never graduated high school. People who have never missed a single Sacrament meeting or church activity and people who don’t own a single tie. People who struggle with autism, depression, anxiety, or shame. People. All kinds.

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And a common thread is simply: There is no place for me. Some of these people feel like the black sheep who will never fit in and some people feel like the white sheep that blends in all too well, meandering through life unnoticed and often unwanted. Just one out of a million look-a-likes.

But no matter what these people define it as, I’ve realized–more and more actually–as I read through these letters and comments and get blessed with the opportunity to meet some of the thousands of people who are united through faith or even struggle, that maybe there really isn’t a place for you. Or me, for that matter. But that is actually a good thing.

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We’re all called instead to create our own place. The church of Christ has nooks and crannies, mountains and ravines, places behind the pulpit and places inside of quiet walls; places in the dusty roads of South Africa and in group homes and orphanages across the street; places where some sing loud and places where some can’t sing at all. Places where money isn’t an issue and places where Pasta-roni is a gourmet meal. Places—created by you and me—that make up this church.

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I’m thinking about this a lot today mainly because I had the opportunity to go along with the missionaries in my church and visit a mother and her little girl today at their home. The whole time we were talking about the reason she fell away from the church, she kept shaking her head and saying, “I didn’t belong. There just wasn’t a place.” And then she followed up with, “But I still believe.”

When she said that I didn’t feel a need to preach to her about why she does belong. I could have easily whipped out a couple scriptures, told her to not care about what others say or judge you by and just get back to church. But I didn’t. Instead, I felt a connection to her because I too have felt the longing of just wanting to have a place. And then I realized–slowly, but surely–that we’re called to make our own.

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Sometimes we don’t realize it, but there isn’t one of us who hasn’t made our own niche in some way. So why are we so quick to judge those who dwell in a different kind of corner of the gospel? Make your own place–because chances are, you’ll need to let someone in to it and let them know they can share that spot.

Bonnie D. Parkin, a former Relief Society president in my church once said, “We cannot change nor take away the burdens of others, but we can include and belong to each other in love.” 

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And how true it is. That’s the beauty of it when you really think about it. So many of us, from all different walks of life and with all different dreams and pasts and ambitions, are children of the same perfect Father in Heaven. And that didn’t happen by accident.

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Through my writing I feel like I’ve been able to welcome some people into my corner who were searching for a place to be. And through whatever you do–whether it’s through your artwork or your cooking or your ambitious heart or your knack for listening–you can etch out a niche too. A perfect niche in a perfect gospel.

Because we’re all welcome here. It’s just up to each of us to decide where we’ll settle in.

 

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96 thoughts on “There might not be a place for you in the church: And that’s a good thing

  1. I’ve always been one of those who’s felt eternally left out. If God intended for me to have a place in the world, it was a place apart from everyone else. I’ve gotten used to it, but it can also be frustrating.

  2. Pingback: My Favorite Things On The Internet: 6/22 | ralphamsden

  3. May I request permission to REPRINT this blog in the Sugar Land TX church of Christ cookbook? There are fewer than 200 of us. The Elders of our church will certainly pull it from final run; especially when they’ve learned the source, but OH LORD do they need to read it anyway. Thank you for being brave enough to post this TRUTH. Peace to you and yours from waaaayyy outside left 😀 !!!

  4. This is well written, as long as we don’t make all-inclusiveness a faith. Often, we seek to make diversity and difference a faith of its own without realizing that in the Gospel of Christ is a faith for which St. Mark writes must be preached ‘to all nations.” According to St. Luke, it is a gospel for all people. This is the beauty of our Lord and Savior and the beauty of Christianity, something which takes the thief, the murderer, and the adulterer and raises them up, making them instruments of compassion and examples of redemption and salvation. I believe your words were well spoken, but just wanted to add that. The Also referring to Derek Larson’s comment, the idea of progress was derived from Elizabeth the first, who would progress on trips to the homes of her earls, who hosted lavish and extravagant parties for her during her stays. Most of the time, they were bankrupt following her stays, forcing them to appeal to her for support. Today, progress is the same way but instead of Elizabeth the first, we face the world. The world asks us to follow certain routines, patterns, and paths in life which enslave us to it. We then can never fit in because the world, if we succumb to it, will enslave and isolate us from God. WE cannot fit in because we are held back by material, ephemeral things and people. But with Christ, a Savior who saved us all, there is always a niche, always a place for us. He tells us how to navigate the world, so when we don’t feel we fit in with certain trends, churches, or people, we are being told instead to set an independent Christian example. I hope this makes sense, and I also will pray for all of you who do feel that separation from the church. Often, separation comes with bickering, or the allowing of petty feuds to block us from our primary purpose—to commune together, all of us broken sinners, under a loving and merciful God.
    Thank you for your comments. If you wouldn’t mind, I would also be grateful if you would look at my new blog about the faith, prayingkeys.wordpress.com. I established this blog as one for theological discussion, prayer, and reflection for all who visit. I also have a prayer list if you would like to add the names of those who may need prayer. Just because I haven’t met you doesn’t mean I will not pray for you. We are all brothers and sisters under a triune God.

    God bless you, thank you for your writing, and keep the faith.

    In Christ,
    Kathleen

  5. I was really worried when I saw a blog post clearly about the LDS church on the Freshly Pressed site. Then I saw it was this blog, and I knew things would be okay. I’m glad your good work has been recognized, and I appreciate that you always give a positive, honest message.

  6. This is fantastic. I’ve been falling away from my church too – because I don’t feel I’m a match with the general overall view which is that God must be worshipped in a very regimented and restricted manner. There are the good people and the bad people, and those (bad ones) don’t come to church.

    I believe in the HS and Christ, and believe in obeying the guidance of the Lord.

    Even the 10 commandments etc., but there is some stuff that I feel is self righteous holier than thou mimicking of the pharisees (who were inclined to preach to Jesus). No I am not the son of God but I think this behavior that dismisses his children because they are marching to the music improperly is felt and drives folks away.

    I mean if God is love and we are his representative, should one feel judged and dismissed by his/her brothers and sisters in Christ because of the word?

    Anyway, I’m babbling…

  7. I myself have overcome a lot, being the misfit, not fitting
    in, having anxiety, depression, social issues, but I just personally
    kept pushing myself, putting myself out of my comfort zone.
    Now, I have a church family whom I love, am apart of a very
    important committee with my church, as well as being direct
    with people in my personal life as well as on the Internet.
    All that has made me a more confident person and
    very blessed too. I think everyone can find their own
    place in this world. I am weird, different, and even though
    I know some won’t approve, I still have my place in this
    world.

  8. Lovely post. You write well and I could stand to hear this message a little more. I need to be reminded of my own originality and purpose. Keep up the writing. I will keep reading.

  9. Interesting read… I was one of those people who didn’t quite ‘fit’ in the church too. I tried for many years and then a few years ago, I stopped trying. I have since made some very good friends outside of the church and am now realising I was never quite as ‘different’ as I was made to feel inside the church. I partially attribute this to why I no longer believe. Churches need to become more accepting and also more relevant.

  10. Unless you’re Kate Kelly or another woman that wants the priesthood and more gender equality, John Dehlin, or homosexual, in which case don’t create your own place, sit quietly in your pew, and keep your thoughts to yourself. Other than that, of course your uniqueness is welcome in the church!

  11. I like it! Thank you for sharing. You give me another reason to like being different from everyone else. And it makes me more thankful for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints because of the happiness and confidence it gives me in being who I am.

  12. Very well written. As humans we have a desire to be accepeted which lends it’s self to the idea that acceptance equals fitting in, how many of us compromise, who we are, what we believe and the things that matter for the sake of acceptance. Not fitting in can be admirred, albeit a lonely exsistance. To act upon a calling from God, is to know your place in his kingdom. I neither know or understand much about LatterDay Saints but what I do Know is that with Jesus there is a place for us and He will accept us just as we are.

  13. This was comforting and timely. You have divined and articulated the isolation, or separateness, I so often feel. Many people act as though believers should all look and should the same, but we were made unique for a purpose. “…we’re all welcome here. It’s just up to each of us to decide where we’ll settle in”, both simple and profound. I am so glad I wandered into your niche. First time reader, instant follower! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Pingback: Why I chose to be a Latter-day Saint: And not a Mormon | all our lemmony things

  15. This is great. You are great. Thank you for sharing. I know you could keep it to yourself but then so many others wouldn’t benefit. So thanks.

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