I peeked through the window slat of the door where Kavin, my four year old, and the rest of his classmates enjoyed their snacks. I expected to find him amongst his friends, laughing and playing, but I found him curled in the corner, up against the wall.
I surveyed the room. Kids stood in line ready to receive their bowl of fruit and held their chopsticks like instruments of play. Kavin watched. Stared. Sadness colored his face. Sadness pierced my heart.
“Kavin, sweetie. Why don’t you go and play with your friends? It is okay that they have different food, but you can still be with them,” I encouraged.
“I don’t want to,” he said softly under his breath. My son is not a soft-spoken boy. Usually he is the one making the ruckus and too loud for the teacher to talk.
I knew this healing diet would be hard on him, craving foods he usually enjoys, but I underestimated the emotional and social pain.
My kid is different. His body needs serious intervention that prevents him from “normal” kid activities right now… even eating an apple. As I sit on the couch reflecting and processing the pain in my mothering heart, I realize… we all are different.
We all are different. Sometimes the world spins around us, living-on apart from Christ, with their “chopstix and bowls of fruit”, indulging in activities that would wreck our spiritual health. And like Kavin, I feel excluded because of my faith. Sometimes alone even.
It hurts to be different. I can mark distinct moments I chose to be alone rather than eat “bowls of fruit” that would hurt my spiritual health. Like the time in high school when my friends were out using recreational drugs and I chose to stay home with Jesus alone, after I became a believer. Or the other time my friend planned a bachelorette party and I chose to leave early because of the activities selected for the evening. Driving home… alone.
How can we lessen the pain? Kavin still can’t eat the fruit, but what if his friends were yelling, “come! Sit with me!” Instead of his mom saying, “go, sit with them?” What if we make effort to spend time listening to others different than us instead of clustering ourselves with others like us? What if we changed some of our social activities to include those in the margins of our social scene? I think the world might see a greater love that surpasses our differences and see the grace we know as believers.
We don’t change who we are to be loved. We are changed by love. Kavin would have been changed by the love of his classmates today. His sadness would have become joy if simply someone included him and his differences. They could still eat their fruit. He could still eat his soup.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
– 1 John 4:11-12
Loving others different than me is difficult. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if I will hurt them by what I do or don’t do. Today, my lesson is this: sometimes love means just inviting someone to sit with you. Even if your different. Even if you live on two ends of town, or are healthy and sick… we all just want to be a part. My son could have used a friend today inviting him in by love.
Jesus balanced this beautifully, perfectly in fact. He ate with sinners and listened well, so well that they wanted to be with him. Yet he called out sinners into repentance. Love is both listening, including, and sharing truth. Now, if you learn how to do that well, please… let the world know! For me, my next step is increased sensitivity to the wallflowers because my son is one.
Have you ever experienced a wallflower moment? What can you learn about loving others with Christ’s love through that experience?