This is another one of those posts I started about a year ago and never quite felt like sharing. But last week I had lunch with the same friend I shared omelets with in the post, and we touched on this subject again, so here it is. Maybe it will speak a few words to someone else who has a tendency to “go it alone” ’cause it’s easier.
It was a delightfully unexpected find on an otherwise mundane day: A Shel Silverstein book I had never heard of. I flipped it open and my heart quickened with the words the way they always do when I can relate to what an author, character, or writer is saying:
Poor, poor Lafcadio – what do you do when you don’t want to be a hunter – and you don’t want to be a lion?
“Look,” he said, “I don’t want to shoot any lions and I certainly don’t want to eat up any of you hunters. I don’t want to stay here in the jungle and eat raw rabbits and certainly don’t want to go back to the city and drink buttermilk. I don’t want to chase my tail, but I don’t wan to play bridge either. I guess I don’t belong in the hunter’s world and I guess I don’t belong in the lion’s world. I guess I just don’t belong anywhere.” he said. *
Oh, Lafcadio, I feel you. And I can’t wait to read your story, I thought before closing the pages and placing the slightly tattered book on the elementary school bookshelf with the rest of the S’s. I noted that the students I work with had almost finished shelving the rest of the library books, so I quickly jotted down the title to my find, Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, and got ready to leave. If there is one thing I am somewhat gluttonous about (besides grandbaby hugs) it is books – including children’s books – and I placed an order with Amazon as soon as I got home.
The book arrived two days later, and although I wasn’t as enamored with the story as I thought I would be (too much killing – and in a children’s book! – for me), I discovered I did indeed have a good deal in common with Lafcadio.
He liked words, the way certain ones sounded as they rolled off his tongue, and, well, beautifully crafted words (sentences, paragraphs) certainly move me a good deal more than flowers or jewelry or tangible things ever could.
And marshmallows? Lafcadio had a thing for marshmallows. Okay, marshmallows in and of themselves I’m impartial to, but I absolutely adore toasted fluffernutter sandwiches. So we’re pretty much kindred spirits, right? (If you don’t know what a fluffernutter is…shame on you! GOOGLE IT RIGHT NOW…IT IS A LIFE CHANGER! And an added bonus is to be able to say you’ve eaten a fluffernutter. Isn’t the sound of that simply lovely?)
What Lafcadio and I really have in common is that feeling of not really belonging anywhere. Not quite fitting in comfortably with any people group. Not with the old gang and not with the new. I shared that thought with a friend, as we took bites of homemade omelets, stuffed with cheese and peppers and onions. “For example, I’m too much of a Jesus follower for some, but not quite fitting the Christian mold for others,” I lamented.
She expressed her surprise, bordering on shock. “But you are friends with so many people! I just can’t believe you feel that way!” She exclaimed.
Oh, but I do.
Just because you are constantly surrounded by people doesn’t mean you feel a sense of belonging.
I dunno, maybe it’s just me, who drags along this skin of discomfort, of awkwardness in large groups.
Lafcadio made a decision to just walk away from everyone, to go it alone:
And with that he shook his head and he put down his gun and picked up his hat and sniffled a couple of times and he walked away over the hill, away from the hunters and away from the lions…and Lafcadio the Great walked down into the valley alone.*
Like Lafcadio, that’s a big temptation for me. You know, to go it alone. It’s so much easier that way. You don’t have to worry about fitting in anywhere, about whether you belong, if you are being judged for being different, if anyone approves of the way you do or say things.
Maybe it IS just me, but I kinda suspect, that feeling of wanting to belong but not quite feeling it might be a bit more universal. I’ve certainly heard it from women (and a couple of men) who’ve shared their stories with me. I just read it in Anne Lamott’s bird by bird when she said as a young person “All I ever wanted was to belong, to wear that hat of belonging.” ** There are plenty of books written on the subject of belonging.
But sometimes I think our quest for “belonging” is a more of selfish desire to find a group of people that think like we do, that act like we do, or at the very least will agree with and approve of everything we are about. And when we don’t find it, we take the Lafcadio route – we choose to go it alone, to Maverick it to the point of casting everyone else aside.
It’s easier. Safer. More comfortable.
There are definitely seasons (winter, spring, summer, and fall, for example) when I’d rather hide in the craft room, alone, catching up on calendar pages (ironically, my current calendar was missing April and May…)
or spend hours alone on my walking trail, rather than be with groups of people.
But as a Believer, it’s not an option for me to go it alone.
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing to the grace that is given to us, let us use them….Romans 12:4-6a NKJV
Aloneness, no matter how comfortable, is not what I am created for. (Neither are you.) So I need to shed that snakeskin, leave it behind like this one I found on my walking trail this morning, and lean into a bit of discomfort.
I’m created to be part of something more important than me. 1 Corinthians 12 goes even further:
For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed, there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”‘ nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-21 NKJV
Yes, I need to be willing to lean into any discomfort, and share my gifts whether I “feel it” or not.
We also weren’t created for sameness. What would the point of that be? How would we grow, learn, encourage one another if we all saw things through the same lens? I’m learning it’s okay to step out into places where people disagree with me, or even disapprove of my way of doing things. My goal is to stand firm in my beliefs while learning from and being challenged by others, and always loving unconditionally, in the power of Christ, those who believe differently. Even with those who aren’t quite so loving in return.
‘Cause at the end of the day, there is only One approval I need, and that is to hear my Redeemer say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
Lafcadio and me, we might have a lot in common. But I’m taking the more challenging route. I’m not going it alone.
Grateful for this wonderful life,
Marie with a 🙂
*from Lafcadio, the Lion who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein
** from bird by bird by Anne Lamott