Saturday, December 16, 2006

Who am I comfortable with?

Last night, Charlie Brown and I went to another Christmas party. This time with several couples from our church.

We've been with our church for 9+ years now, though not quite 10. It seems as if we have always NEVER fit the mold. When we were in the "college" group, we were the only married members for awhile - later, this got us booted from that group as several of the "popular" kids felt that it should be a more traditional student group. When LMNOB came along, all the other new parents at church were 10 yrs older than us and several income brackets up - hard to relate at times. Now, we're no longer "young" marrieds (i.e. newlyweds) but we're still plenty young - 27 and 31. Our parenting label is no longer "new parents," but rather "parents of school age children." We are involved in that we attend most church functions, we've committed to teach a quarter of sunday school every year, we lead a life group, etc. Still, for some reason, we don't have a lot of close friendships at church.

Side note: Funny thing about that is, is the groups who seem like they are always doing something with each other outside of church are the loudest protesters that we aren't close enough as a family. They are also the ones with shaky commitment to our family, evidenced by many leaving this past year, just because. That trend saddens me, a lot. Why aren't we talking about this, instead of painting a pretty picture that all is well until one Sunday when a family is gone forever?

Back to the issue at hand, fitting in. I'm totally of the school of thought that not everyone is going to be my best friend - nor should they be. But inclusion doesn't equal best friends in my book, you know?

Most of the families at our church are upper middle class with the man being the primary earner and the woman a SAHM. I'm not knocking SAHM's - at all, they have my utmost respect for doing a job that I simply CAN'T do. I mother better when able to utilize the other gifts God granted me, which is found in my work. When I'm not using my potential, I get crabby, depressed, and become a very poor mother/wife. And people at church don't understand this. It hurts every Mother's Day when our minister preaches his mother's day sermon where he says in his most politically correct way, that while he understands that not everyone CAN afford the luxury of staying home with the kids, he believes that women should make every effort to do so. In other words, if you can't afford to stay home, but resent having to work because you'd rather be at home, you're still a good mom. But those who want to work....need to work - and not all because of money - well......yeah.

It stinks because not many people who we go to church with really buy into what my work is all about. And, I'm getting more and more excited about what God has planned for me. But people don't get it. And I grow uncomfortable around them as they talk about Polish Pottery collections, the latest sale at Kohl's, and STUFF. I grow uncomfortable around Charlie Brown as he talks about STUFF! I just feel like I am on the outside looking in a lot of times - and that bugs me.

Yesterday, at the end of the day, a frantic mother came into the City's Building/Planning department. She'd paid a deposit for a rental house, but the landlord kept moving the move in date with her due to some work he was doing, and building permit delays with the City. She was using all of her money to stay in a hotel while she waited to move in. The building people couldn't help her, but one of my coworkers came into the Human Services Office, asking if I could help her. I told her sure, that I would be happy to listen to her and see what would be the best course of action for her, whether it was assistance through the House of Neighborly Service, or if she needed to seek out Colorado Legal Services. The mother and daughter came up, and with them was a senior citizen woman that I recognized instantly - a former client of mine from my housing coordinator days. I greeted E and said, "It's been too long - how are you doing? Are you still in the house over on 5th?" She was surprised to see me and told her friend, "This is Heather, she will treat you right and get this ALL straightened out - she helped me when I was about to become homeless." Turned out the woman had a section 8 housing voucher and was new to town. Due to past experience with other housing agencies, she was afraid that she would have no choice as to where she could live - outside of this house that was perfect for her and her daughter. I sat down with her and explained that section 8 is a housing choice program. That because she had a guaranteed resource for housing, she wouldn't receive help from any other agencies, but - that wasn't a bad thing, I added as she began to cry at that news. I explained that she would be able to find something comparable very easily, called a few housing folks to get a listing of participating landlords, and told her she needed to collect her deposit from this landlord that was jerking her around, find something else, and hopefully, as early as next week she could be leased up and done spending her money at the hotel. I also called her housing coordinator at the housing authority to bring them up to speed. The poor woman - just didn't know all of her options, and as such, saw only bleak desperation. I've been there before - haven't you? But, as she left my office, she was relieved and happy.

Later, as I recounted the story to Charlie Brown last night, I told him, "I was far more comfortable with those two women, so different from me, than I was with the people at the party tonight - who profess the same faith."

I was frustrated by that last night. Thinking why don't I fit in with those at our church? Feeling sorry for myself really.

But then,

It hit me this morning - Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, yet was ridiculed, excluded, and ultimately killed by those who claimed the same religious heritage as Him. I'd wager to say that Jesus felt the same way about fitting in during His days on earth -don't you think?

Maybe, it's not such a bad thing to be an outcast....

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