Being the New Girl

“I don’t understand why we go to a church forty-five minutes away,” I say, gripping the steering wheel as I practice my driving.

Dad leans back in his seat.  “What’s the problem with that?”

“It takes us out of the community.”

“Fine, okay, I’ll tell you what,” he says.  “You can pick a local church and I’ll take you there.”

“No.  Never mind.”

“Why not?”

“It won’t make a difference,” I say.

“I thought you wanted to go to a church in the local community.”

“I did but, it’s fine, the church we go to now…”

“Okay.”

I pull into our driveway and say, “I just wish we didn’t go to a church forty-five minutes away.”

My dad is speechless.

I’ve been crabby about a lot of things lately, notably church.  The Christian Reformed church that my family attends has a solid theology and a friendly congregation, but it’s a subculture that I’m struggling to feel a part of.  They’ve all known each other for generations, they all send their kids to the local Christian Reformed school and then, eventually, onto the Christian Reformed college, Calvin.  They’re all white which, as Dad warns my brother and I, is not a problem until we make it one.  However, there’s no denying the hundreds of eyes on my mom and brother and I every Sunday morning as we head towards a pew.  They ask us if we’re Dutch as though it would help explain why we’re here.

snow

I can’t shake the feeling that I’m popping out of nowhere.  It’s a feeling that I use to explain why I dread talking to people at church and also why I moan about not having any friends there.  I feel like I’m living in the in-betweens of other people’s lives.  At work, although every single person there has been more than kind to me, most of them have still known each other for years and I use that as an excuse for why I’m not deep, close friends with any of them.

I want to be back at a place where everyone knows me.  I want to go to a church dinner and not have to sit by myself while the other ladies crowd together at another table (that actually happened).  I want to skip all the getting-to-know-each-other and go straight to being good friends with a lot of memories to share.  I want this new-girl, transition period to be over.

Naturally, I reflect longingly on my past life in England where I had a circle of friends and a loving church family.  What I forget is that there was a point when I didn’t have any of that.  Upon first arriving in England, exactly three years ago, I knew no one.  I was just tentatively attending a local church on Sunday mornings, sharing dinner with my flatmates, and chatting with my coursemates before entering a lecture.

cafe

It was definitely easier to make friends because the university setting is social by nature, but I still had to make baby steps to develop strong friendships.  There were a lot of false starts, a lot of awkward moments, a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of false first impressions.  But I gradually became part of a network that made leaving England so hard for me.  It took three years but God sent me the right people, one-by-one, at perfect times.

I need to have faith that that will happen again.  I’m angry for having been uprooted from my life in England.  It has closed my heart and mind from rebuilding a network here in my new home.  I struggle to believe that I will make friends or become part of a church family like the one I left behind.  But I know having this attitude will make that belief definite.

So I pray for patience, for friends, and for a church family.  I feel like I have no faith whatsoever but I must have some faith if I’m praying.  The Bible says that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains so I ask God to take my mustard-seed faith and move mountains with it.

Massachusetts, if you keep an open mind to me, I’ll keep an open mind to you.

-Rachel

 

4 thoughts on “Being the New Girl

  1. I read this …twice …

    Random thoughts:
    -The 2 images. The first image shows an overwhelming barren, cold, white. The second image shows color, people, warmth. Good images, carefully chosen I am sure. The way you feel now, versus before? Massachusetts, versus England? Now, versus college? Whiteness, versus non-whiteness and diversity?
    -The snippet of dialogue. It is very well-written, and believable. There is a small level of lack of clarity and miscommunication … I presume intentional … surrounding the church location….and that it takes you out of the community. Is this an issue of miles and time driven? Or something else. I am leaning towards something else … but the dialogue is written such that actually neither of the people in the dialogue are clear on this distinction …and it is leading to a bit of a frustrating miscommunication.
    -As a parent, and as a guy … one thing we do … and it’s intended to be helpful … is we solve problems. It’s what we do …we do it at work, we do it at home. Give me a problem, I will solve it. Typical guy behavior …we all do it, which is another reason why the conversation is believable. The church is too far, pick another one and we will go there instead. At some shorter distance … the problem will be solved. Simple. Only it’s not, it’s not a problem of distance or miles or minutes to drive. And the behavior of problem solving is not always helpful, or what is needed. The behavior I am learning and working on is listening, active listening … to actually not provide advice or solutions. No one does this naturally, not me, mostly not any guys, so it is not a critique … just an observation. But the general sense of the dialogue as written is that not only are your feelings and concerns not being heard … you are not even articulating them clearly..and the result is miscommunication. As a good writer … I presume this is intentional….this sense of your concerns or feelings not being heard. This is sort of also echo’d in “It’s not a problem unless you make it one” …which is a bit of a dismissal or discounting of your issue.

    This feeling of being an outsider or not fitting in … is one I am well acquainted with. I know how troubling it can feel.

    A complete non-sequitor … but 2 of my favorite poems on this topic are by Emily Dickinson:

    I’m Nobody! Who are you?
    Are you – Nobody – too?
    Then there’s a pair of us!
    Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

    How dreary – to be – Somebody!
    How public – like a Frog –
    To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
    To an admiring Bog!

    and

    How happy is the little stone
    That rambles in the road alone,
    And does n’t care about careers,
    And exigencies never fears;
    Whose coat of elemental brown 5
    A passing universe put on;
    And independent as the sun,
    Associates or glows alone,
    Fulfilling absolute decree
    In casual simplicity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so nice to hear your thoughts, Michael! It’s all so in-depth and analytical! Apologies that I can’t reciprocate as in-depth. But you’re spot on with your observation of the dialogue. Something as simple as distance and time can be fixed but with problems like these, and as most problems are, it’s more of an attitude issue. I’ve been gradually coming to terms with the fact I am blessed to go to a friendly, loving church family, it’s just my stubbornness that is keeping me from from reaching out and making an effort. I need to open my mind and heart instead of being self-pitying.
      I love the Emily Dickinson poem! She is so passionate and emotion-filled! It’s fascinating how she admires the little lonely stone but then she’s also craving a companion (“Then there’s a pair of us!”). I need to read her more often.
      You’re right about one photo appearing bleak while the other is warmer. They did make me think, though, about feeling lonely in a place of emptiness and a place full of people. That’s what compelled me to include them.
      Please, please, please, keep reading and telling me your thoughts!
      Rachel

      Like

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