She stood there behind the locked metal mesh like gate, looking in at all the excitement going on inside the church. On the outside looking in. All of the sponsored children were receiving their school supplies. Somehow she saw me at the back of the room and waved frantically. I walked out to meet her, give her a hug. From the time I first met her, we had a connection. There was just something about her that drew me in. I saw her filth, her unkempt hair and neglect. But I saw in her eyes a hurt that ran deep and a longing just to be loved. Sadly, there are so many others like her in the schools in which we serve.
Some time ago, I heard a devotional on Luke 15:4 that reminded me of my young friend and resonated with me. I saw that scripture in a brand new way.
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of the gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety- nine others in the wilderness and go and search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
At some point in our lives all of us have felt lonely at some time. We all want to belong, be included.
I remember back when I was in the seventh grade, my family moved. That meant going to a new school and began what would become the worst two years of my life. You see, I was like my young friend, on the outside looking in. I didn’t belong. Everyone in that country school had grown up together and already had their cliques. I was the fat and ugly new girl with hand me down clothes that no one wanted to befriend. Then there were the stares. The whispers. The jeers. The memory of that time still stings a little if I allow myself to think on it too much. And if am to be honest that time has largely shaped who I am today, even though it was more than thirty years ago. I don’t know if there has been a time where I ever felt more alone.
In every crowd there are those who are lonely. In our schools, our churches, our women’s groups, youth groups and our workplace. Really, in pretty much every social setting, there are those who are excluded, those who go unnoticed. There are those who sit on the sidelines, not participating or joining in with the others. There are those who are not a part of the “in” crowd. Perhaps it is that new person at church sitting alone with no one making their way over to talk to them. The hurting, and lonely, longing to belong, longing inside just to fit in somewhere.
I love how in this particular illustration in the Bible, Jesus left the ninety nine. He left the sheep that he knew were ok. He left the sheep that were already a part of the flock and he went in search of the one who was missing.
What if we did that? What if we, like Jesus, intentionally sought out those who are lonely and those who always sit by themselves and find ways to include them? Draw them out of their shell? Maybe invite them over for a meal or go out for coffee or just sit with them. Get to know them. Who knows maybe the Lord will use us to be a balm for a soul’s hurting heart. And maybe we will even gain a new friend in the process.
Poverbs 18:24 There are friends who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.