Being a Piece of the Puzzle

I was in 5th grade when it happened, when I found out I didn’t fit in.  At the tender age of 10, I was in the bathroom with the cool girls.  The ones the boys liked.  The ones who shaved their legs.  The ones who got in trouble for wearing nail polish. We all wore uniforms.  We looked the same.  Apparently we were not the same.  I was the odd girl and this was news to me.

I was the odd girl who didn’t even own a razor, the one who could braid her hair 4 different ways, who read long books like Little Women, who didn’t dance or swim or cheer or play basketball well.  I was the girl who had blossomed into a woman well before her age had indicated she should.  And they teased me about it, pointing at a spot of blood on a toilet.  Blood that was not mine.  But they knew, and they pointed it out. I was different.  I was the uniformed piece that matched the wrong puzzle.

Even now I can hardly shake that feeling.  A neighbor leaves a note in my mailbox about our sick cat.  I collapse inwardly.  Again I don’t fit.  I can’t take care of our cat like I should. She doesn’t like me.  Never mind that I have twins whose stroller won’t fit in the door of the vet.  Never mind that it takes two people (or even three) put the cat into a crate and he’s never home. Never mind that I’ve been watching his assumed sting that turned out to be an abscess for signs of infection worse than just the surface pus.  Never mind that two years ago I took stitches out of the leg of the same dearly loved cat.  Apparently, I’m incompetent.  Apparently, my neighbor hates me.  I just don’t fit.

I can’t shake that feeling as I hang out with the upper middle class folks that I’ve somehow come to run in the same circles with.  People whose houses are beautifully decorated while I use people’s castoffs in my living room.  People who can afford to go out to lunch whenever they please.  People who wear clothing with labels.  People who buy organic foods because they believe it is best.  I don’t seem to fit there: saving up money to pay off our last minuscule debts.  Ordering an appetizer portion or declining the invitation to go out.  I feel awkward as they discuss parenting techniques.  More awkward as they talk about growing up in a Christian home or about the most recent toys their kids are loving.  I just don’t fit.

But the truth of the matter is that my view of myself and of my place in community is skewed.

Skewed perhaps by an encounter in 5th grade and the belief in lies.

Skewed by unhealed pain.

Community isn’t about sameness anymore than puzzles are about identical pieces.  The best puzzles, the ones you sit with friends over for hours, are the ones whose pieces are varied.  No two pieces look alike.  The challenge and the joy in putting that puzzle together are unmatched.

Community is about using your talents.
Your time.
Your experience.
Your pain.
Your knowledge of the Gospel intersecting life.

Using these things to encourage.
To build up.
To help each other live out our purpose here:
Glorifying God.

And it’s not perfect.  Nor is it easy to be vulnerable to being used.  Vulnerable to say you’re not perfect.  You’re not normal.

But it’s the only way to make beauty from the chaos of a million puzzle pieces desperate to fit in.