As a neat freak, I know that things out of place and messiness make it more difficult for me to be productive. And to not begin “fixing” it. And to be at peace. Recently, though, I found myself in a situation where I was the thing out of place. I was mortified and totally taken off guard at first, but as these things do…it came to remind me a lot of Jesus.
It was a very busy day, with a full day of work followed by an event followed by another event. I’d been rushing from one thing to the next, and was so relieved to have reached the last part of the day, when I was heading to what I *thought* was a small, late-night gathering of family for a “leftovers” dinner from a First Communion and birthday party. There was to be a soccer game on TV that we had all been anticipating, so in my head, everyone would be casually hanging out and watching it in the aftermath of a huge celebration. I knew immediately that what was “in my head” was wrong, though, as soon as we got to the street, because there were cars lined for most of the block along both sides. The party was not nearly over, and since most had come from attending the actual First Communion, everyone was dressed up and in full celebration mode. I was not only exhausted but now also mortified, because I was wearing a t-shirt with sweats and sandals with socks (I know…I know.). There were a couple strange looks at first, but to my bewildered joy, everyone seemed to overlook this faux pas, including the little guy for whom the party was being held. He was just excited that we had finally come! As we settled in with our dinner and into watching the game, my embarrassment shifted to an even greater fondness for this family, many of whom still didn’t know me very well, and their willingness to invite me into a celebration in which I felt totally out of place.
As I later confessed to having been totally prepared to stick my head in the sand, I was reminded that feeling out of place isn’t always something from which to hide, but can be a check on humility. I remembered how Jesus in his ministry didn’t pertain to a particular place, that he didn’t feel at home among the religious elite in which his title of “rabbi” would have placed him, and especially that he was God among us, totally out of place in the dusty desert from his heavenly home. If I was being honest, too, it was mostly my pride being snagged, not that I had done wrong to cause such embarrassment. Lastly, I was reminded that it was people who felt exactly as I did that Jesus interacted with often. The ones who were given those “funny looks” or much worse, the ones who were never invited in, and the ones who came late to the party. Just like the first communicant-birthday boy, Jesus celebrated them having joined the family! My prayer in those realizations came to be that I would extend exactly that grace to those who feel out of place either in small situations or maybe even in the whole of their lives. May we all do the same. Amen!