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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.