The conversation flows around me; I feel like I bob on the surface, never quite submerged. Women complain about their weight, their husbands, their whatever. They chat about the weather, or their diet, or their days, and I participate when they can. I’m sure very few of them realize how distant I feel, and the sadness that comes with that. Why can’t I belong?
I thought it would get better, this feeling of not belonging. It began as a child, always on the lip of a group, never quite in the cup. Easily tipped out, easily left behind. Over time I blamed it on my weight, my mind, my hair. That outsiderness, I blamed on me. What was wrong with me that I always felt uncomfortable, never fitting in? And when would I be able to fix it?
Then the other day, feeling especially lonely, I came upon this verse: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25). Perhaps I’m not meant to fit in. Perhaps the work Christ is doing in me, the work I take so very seriously, is the very thing keeping me from being in the cup. If I had to choose between fitting in now or fitting into eternity, well, that seems kind of obvious.
Still, it doesn’t help when I’m standing in the crowd but not in the crowd. Because the crowd is here, and eternity is not. The crowd is happy, and I am troubled. But the passage continues, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12: 27-28).
Even Jesus was troubled! Surely He was outside of everything, even though He had created everything. The people around Him, they wouldn’t have existed but for His handiwork, and yet He was set apart, prepared to sacrifice everything for them. But when He was troubled–as I am troubled–He knew that His trouble was important, that being set apart was glorifying to God. Because honestly, it’s more comfortable in than out.
In that hour–or that moment, that conversation, that gathering–I can open myself up little by little to the troubled feeling instead of fighting against it. That trouble, it means that I am living a life meant for eternity, and also that I can glorify God by accepting the trouble instead of trading it for the temporary. Hard as it might be to see right now, the life abundant the crowd might have is nothing compared to a life abundant eternally.