There are certainly times when every one feels like they don’t belong. Most of those times are in junior high school but the don’t necessarily up-and-disappear after college. It can even at times be excruciating even as an adult. However, I have been learning, especially in the last few years of not ‘fitting’ isn’t always something for which some people should strive.
I am in no way suggesting that alienation, per se, is a Christian virtue- quite the opposite. Benedict is quite clear that the hermit life is reserved only for those who have mastered communal life and its rhythms so that even though the are alone they continue to participate in the life of the community. But the mere fact that a Christian is bound to the Body of Christ in both a very experiential and theological way, means he or she is not going to ‘fit’ very well in the world we live in a variety of ways. But every Christian, at least in a theological sense, fits in the Body of Christ.
Even so there are particular vocations, or even just circumstances of life that really does produce some odd ducks that contributes to the eccentricity of some characters. At the art festival Burning Flipside, which is a regional spin-off of Burning man, one is greeted at the gate with big hugs and a sign that says…”Welcome Home.” I know that it is the experience of many of us who attend that for a weekend a lot of ugly ducklings find their swans.
I also had this experience while living at L’Arche in Calgary. L’Arche has ‘welcomed me home’ because they have mastered the art of slowing down, paying attention, and learning and naming the gifts of people who are often dismissed. I think that’s why the saw gifts in me I didn’t know I had. They were also willing to live with the other kinds of disabilities I brought to the table.
I think that artists, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, eccentrics, widows, elderly and…y’know… even just annoying people in general, can not only give a critical perspective on the world but also each us about the importance of naming each other’s gifts, patience, and most importantly desire. Being different is not so hard, it usually just is what it is. The fear that being exceptional will mean that others wont desire to have me in their lives is what is terrifying. This is at the core of what Jean Vanier consistently calls anguish.
Meanwhile, God aches for us and longs for us. ..For you. It can be tough to remember this when the Church sometimes stutters in communicating this. When it does, nothing helps more than to turn and go looking for ways to help other ducklings and say to them, “Welcome Home.”