The moment I see the image, the bottom drops out from a place deep inside me. Five friends smile back, only one is missing — me. I too was there that day. I too sat drinking coffee on the patio, laughing and talking about life and writing. But somehow, I did not make the picture.
Maybe I was in the bathroom. I console myself. Perhaps the picture with me was blurry and not worth posting. They were not intending to hurt me.
All of it is true. But no matter how hard I try to rationalize the fact I am missing, the feeling of being left out surfaces like an all-too-familiar grief. Belonging has not come easily. My heart bears the scars of a thousand paper cuts, most of them unintended and yet they sting. The wounds remain tender, and as much I wish I were not so sensitive to feeling on the outside, I cannot ignore the ache inside me. The desire for connection is in my veins.
A few months ago, I told a friend of my tendency to feel left out or left behind. Tenderly, she observed, “It’s like you’re standing on a sidewalk outside a restaurant. You can see your friends sitting at a booth right next to the window, drinking coffee and laughing, while you look on through the glass. You are close, and yet not quite.”
As she spoke, the same old ache welled up within me, as if it had been waiting and watching for its cue. Tears blurred my vision as thirty-something years of clunky relationships passed through my mind. I was that woman on the sidewalk, the one wanting to be on the other side of the glass but unsure how to get there. I was the one doing all she could to fit in, but questioning if she really belonged. And despite how much I have learned about connection, pieces of that woman remain, haunting me.
Scarcity loves to lurk in the corners of the mind, whispering through gritted teeth,
You are the odd person out.
You are the outlier, the wallflower, the one-off who can’t figure out how to have friends.
Your desire is nothing more than a flimsy dream.
Looking at the picture of my friends, I once again shirk and shrink back, wondering if I am doomed to a life looking through the glass. Because in that window, I don’t just see longing; I see lack. A picture of everything I am not. Standing there, I wonder: Am I the outlier? Does everyone else intuitively know how to navigate the relational waters? Because paddle as I may, all I seem to do is spin in circles, which leads me to conclude the problem is in me. Or worse, the problem is me.
Longing without the light of hope bends toward despair, but longing in and of itself is not a deficit. Desires are signposts, avenues into something good. We do not want without reason, which leads me to question: What if I am looking at my desire to belong all wrong? What if what I perceive as void is vastness — a divine welcoming into so much more?
Maybe the window is not a reminder of our lack, but a way to see the longing.
That’s the funny thing about windows and other things made of glass, isn’t it? While on one hand they allow us to peek at what is on the other side, they also offer a reflection, a way to see ourselves a little more clearly. Windows reveal what we so often ignore. Perhaps what we need, instead of moving on by, is to gaze at what we see a little longer.
Holding my phone, the picture staring back at me, I pause. I look a little longer at the screen, and as I pay attention to the pain that wells up, I speak my longing out loud. I let the words pass through my lips like a prayer:
I want to belong.
I want to feel safe and seen.
I want to be known.
I want to be wanted.
I say the words over and over, knowing my desire does not fall on deaf ears but into the hands of the One who wove us all together in the first place. The One who crafted us from dirt and the warmth of His breath and pulls us to His chest like a mother gathering her young. The One who saw beyond our fractured state and let His prayer echo over us for generations, “May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21 CSB).
As I name the ache out loud, I remember this holy wanting embedded in my bones. I am not on the outside looking in; I am simply still on the way. This knowing frees me. I take a deep breath and feel my face stretch into a smile as the power lack once held over me diminishes. Grace softens my once-fragile edges enough for me to forgive, to make room for a world where I am wanted, even if I am not in the picture. There in the longing, the hollowness transforms into hope. Because what I see in the glass is no longer an outsider, but a person wrapped in the promise of more — a people of a Bigger Picture, framed in the goodness of the Father’s love.Leave a Comment