“Addiction” might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates society. Our addiction make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world’s delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in “the distant country,” leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled. In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father’s home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in “a distant country.” It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
For a number of years I taught tenth grade Sunday School – and I loved it. Inevitably during the year, this kid or that one would approach me and talk to me about leaving church. My standard response was, “Tell me more.” I soon became aware that the response was going to be very predictable. “Mrs. McBean, I just feel out of place and alone here. EVERYONE has friends here but me.” I bet you assume that these are the marginalized kids, right? Wrong. EVERY KID. EVERY KID that ever spoke to me privately felt like this. There was no distinction between the outgoing, popular ones and the ones with blue hair, tattoos and saggy pants. I heard this from the brilliant children who hung out with the techy nerds and the artists. Every stinking kid felt this way.
Now that I pastor a recovery community, I sometimes hear the same lament from folks in our community. Someone might tell me that they think there are cool and not cool groups in our community. I restrain myself. I’m not sure how many of us ever qualified for “cool”. But what I understand from these repetitive conversations, now that I’m old, is that no amount of jollying can ever create a community that is universally experienced as warm and hospitable. So much of our experience is more a reflection of how we judge ourselves than the reality of what others think about us. I don’t know how to change this, but I believe we should keep trying. One thing we could do is gain some perspective. If we are feeling lonely, maybe we could try to be more….friendly towards others. Maybe when we think we’re on the outside looking in, what if we considered the fact that a bunch of other people feel the exact same way? What could we do differently with that change of mindset?