Everyone belongs

Friends gather to celebrate Matt's birthday in August, 2009

Friends gather to celebrate Matt’s birthday in August, 2009

No one is a stranger here.
Everyone belongs.
Finding our forgiveness here,
we in turn forgive all wrongs.

Bryan J. Leech

On a recent Sunday during worship in northern Virginia, we sang one of my favorite songs before communion.  A verse from the song is quoted above.  Having entered the assembly that day feeling burdened with various worries and sorrows, the song touched me deeply and reminded me why we keep coming back to meet with other believers.

All of us want to belong. I can think of few things more painful than feeling excluded.  One of the ways our younger son Matt has blessed us has been the way his presence opened our eyes to so much that we couldn’t fully see before, and among the things we’ve learned is the hard lesson of how sad it is to feel excluded.

Seeing Matt largely disregarded by his nondisabled peers over the years has been a sorrow that stabs at the heart again and again each time it happens. Yet there is also consolation in the deep love of those who can see past the disabilities to treasure the unique person Matt is, and patience with those who aren’t quite there yet, but are trying to get past their obvious discomfort with anything that is not typical. It’s easier to be patient as we recognize that we, too, have excluded others, often without intending to do so.

I’ve heard people admonish others that forgiveness is its own reward; that holding onto our anger or grudges does more damage to us than it does to the objects of our hard feelings.  I agree with this totally. But forgiveness is important for other reasons as well. Forgiveness teaches us patience and understanding. It implies humility, as this quote suggests, and the realization that we cannot expect the forgiveness of others until we are willing to offer it ourselves. This humility is what transforms a group of diverse people into a family where everyone belongs.

This kind of relationship with others is more easily talked about than practiced, of course. It’s an ideal for which we strive, but as with so many desirable traits, we often fall short of what we are striving for.  I think the important thing is to keep trying, keep opening our hearts to others, keep reminding ourselves that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

That is the spirit that I hope to maintain on this blog, and I sincerely appreciate all the wonderful and supportive comments of those who visit us here.  I hope that all who read this blog will find something helpful.  My gratitude goes out to all who take the time to stop by.  If you are seeking optimism, hope, and a spirit of gratitude, respect and caring, YOU BELONG!

21 Comments

  1. Mike Bertoglio

    As per yesterday what was the song that Ferris sang to Cameron–? Everything is coming up roses ?.
    Thank God for loving parents. Just heard a story on NPR about a young man who came out to his parents and when he did his dad took all his clothes and belongings from his room , made a pile on the front lawn and set them on fire. Maybe that does not fit, but rejection cuts to the core no matter the source.

    • As I recall, Ferris was lip-syncing to Wayne Newton’s version of Danke Schoen, complete with German-costumed backup singers on the parade float. Truly hilarious. They ended up singing other songs too; it got very rowdy. Re: your other comment about the father who burned his son’s things, I always feel so sad when I hear stories such as that one. I cannot imagine the pain in such a situation. Speaking for myself as a parent, it’s all too easy to feel a sense of personal betrayal when our children do things we don’t approve of, or things we believe are foolish or bad for them, or outright wrong. But what a horrible and destructive way to deal with it. The worst part is, I can easily imagine the father may have told himself “this is for his own good.” 😦 I have come to realize that it’s best to try to separate one’s personal emotions from such situations, as much as possible, because such things should rarely if ever be taken as a personal offense. So often we take other people’s actions and somehow turn it into something about us, which it rarely is. But between parents and children, that’s a very difficult line to draw. Rejection really does cut to the core, and I think this father was probably lashing out at what he perceived as the son’s rejection of how he was brought up, so he dished out some harsh rejection himself, as a response to his anger. A heartbreaking story, but one that will hopefully make people think twice. Thanks for your comment and for being here!

  2. Eric

    I want this to be a wonderful and supportive comment: Though Matt may not realize it until the next life, I have been excluded as an atypical person for most of my life as well. Oh, i have been able to tie my shoes for almost sixty years, but exclusion has occurred in more intangible areas. I seek optimism, hope, and a spirit of gratitude, respect and caring; and yet, even those who have heard Sunday morning sermons from me have excluded me as an “outsider”. My best friend, at whose bedside I have sat for hours upon hours, during his severe case of colon cancer, seems to exclude me from his fellowship of believers. But the thing that stabbed my heart the worst was one of my birthdays when i was excluded, by family members, from a birthday celebration. Have I failed to forgive whenthey asked for forgiveness? I do not believe I have. But the concept of holding a grudge has a nuanced difference in meaning. Please pray for me, that I will be able to apply that phrase of alliteration we hear so often – Forgive and Forget.

    • Eric, I think we could all use prayers that we learn to forgive. Forgetting isn’t always possible, but maybe if we practiced what Max Lucado described (with respect to another type of temptation) as the 2-second rule; don’t be too harsh on yourself for feeling hurt, but don’t allow yourself to dwell on it or even think of it for more than 2 seconds at a time. Almost everyone I know has felt left out in some way, different or secretly afraid that if others REALLY knew them, they would not be loved. I think this sense of isolation is stronger than ever in our culture, as we turn to electronic distractions as an escape from the very real complications of relating to other humans. And the more we run from such difficulties, the more we forget how to communicate and relate to others. You are right that there are many different shades of meaning when it comes to “holding grudges.” I think we can and should be aware of situations that are likely to hurt us again and again, and steer clear of them as much as possible. That’s not a grudge; it’s just common sense. I also think that people can love other people without necessarily liking them or wanting to be with them. But in the end, I think it all gets back to humility; the realization that almost anything someone does to hurt us, we have done in some form, at some time, to someone else. That may be a bit of an over-generalization, but I find it easier to forgive others when I remain mindful of all the times I have needed– and not necessarily deserved — forgiveness. Thanks for your heartfelt comment. BTW, in 1978 I experienced a very similar birthday situation; I’ll tell you about it sometime when we can talk face to face. Jeff would tell you I STILL haven’t forgiven it! But hey, I’m working on it! 🙂 Maybe after another 35 years have passed…

  3. Sheila

    Julia, that’s such a lovely hymn that you shared and one that I was unfamiliar with. What a great time everyone was sharing at Matt’s party. He has the biggest smile of all. He is so loved and that is always obvious in the comments here. You’re such wonderful parents to such a fine young man! Matt, your birth month is quickly approaching…..enjoy! Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila, the folks in that photo are/were a very special group. One of them has since left this earth, but is remembered fondly and often. Jeff, Matt and I spent a wonderful time together yesterday evening with 7 of the people pictured. It is almost impossible not to smile with those folks. We were with them one evening very shortly after Jeff’s stage 4 diagnosis and even then we shared laughter and smiles as well as tears. It is so important to be among others where we feel we belong; we have so much to give each other. You have given me quite a lot through these, the most difficult months of my life so far! Thank you so much for your faithful friendship.

  4. Carolyn

    I love that hymn also. I am happy to that I got to know Matt, he is a wonderful young man and his family is special too. How are things going for Jeff? Love you all , have a good week.

    • Carolyn

      Just read yesterday reply about Jeff’s CEA. Yes, praise God, we will make it.
      I love to get good news like this. Love and hugs.

      • Yes! You and Jeff have given me two BIG reasons to be thankful with those CEA numbers!! I just know we all will be celebrating together in 4 or 9 years from now. 🙂 We will be able to look back and say “Remember 2012 when…” Thanks for being here!!

    • Thanks Carolyn, and the same to you and your family!

  5. Rebecca Sweatt

    I so appriciate your grace and patience. I’m sure I’ve been on the receiving end of it more times than I know. I learn so much from watching your walk with the LORD. I pray for you everyday and see GODs provision in your life which encourages me more. It’s truly astounding to think about all HE gives us, the least we could do is share it.

    • Thanks so much Becky, you have been an encouragement to me with your steadfast faith and continuing presence at church regardless of what your personal circumstances are at any point in time. We are so grateful for your prayers and friendship!

  6. Bobby Harris

    Thanks for the picture of that wonderful group. I so miss you all. Good people here, but it takes time to knit together into family. Love and prayers.

    • Bobby, we miss you too! We always thought of you as the “leaders emeritus” and have such fond memories of our very first year in Virginia, when you welcomed us and made us feel at home. It does take time to make those connections, and as a military family, we often had to leave just when we were beginning to “settle in.” I am so happy for your visits here, and we appreciate your staying in touch! Love to you and Randall.

    • Mike, I tried that link and got the song, but not the video part. This one is a clip of some of the funniest scenes, and has some of the “Danke Schoen” parade scene in it. It also includes Ben Stein’s famous “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” scene, and the hilarious part with the slobbering attack dog. http://youtu.be/hXFB_patBgc

  7. I can see that you and your family are surrounded by a lot of love. Who knows why some people choose to be abrupt and unfriendly. I do think it’s a choice. But, who am I to judge? Perhaps they have hardships and sadness in their lives that prevents them from showing joy, love or kindness. I do think that sadly, there are people who will always have a grande sense of entitlement at everyone else’s expense and they may never be happy. I try to remember the words to one of my favourite songs, “we’ll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us, till there are no strangers anymore”.

    • You are so right, and sometimes I’ve been guilty of being the grouchy and abrupt one. And I do believe that hardship and sorrow can leave us “bankrupt” of joy and kindness. And often, what seems to be callous disregard may be nothing more than a person being absorbed in their own very real challenges. So we all need to “grow kindness in our hearts.” That song lyric fits perfectly with this post.

  8. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    IN JESUS/JESHUA…EVERYONE DOES BELONG TO HIM AND EACH OTHER.

    • Thanks so much for re-blogging! 🙂

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