When You’re Feeling Left Out, Unloved, and Lacking
The faces in the photo were overcome with joy, smiling big. Four girls leaning on each other, one in a wedding dress. A ton of Instagram hearts below solidified its status as a joyful memory and a lovely photo. But looking at it made me want to cry.
A little over a year ago, I traveled to Uganda with a group of total strangers. Though none of us knew each other before the trip, and we had nothing in common beyond saying “yes” to flying across the world to serve together, we all quickly bonded over our shared experiences in this new place and became fast friends. We worshipped together, cleaned up a library together, planted fields of grass together, ate together, and danced with girls rescued from trafficking together. We were a team, leaning on and learning from each other, and I flew home to Missouri with a deep hope that, though we were all from different states and places, we would somehow stay connected as friends.
I later learned that several of them had the same idea. A handful of times over the past year since we returned, I have seen photos pop up on social media of several folks from our trip getting together at conferences, events, or just because. It hurts to admit this, but I have never been invited to any of these get-togethers. The first few times, I tried to brush it off as coincidence and not take it personally. Later, I tried to reach out in a positive (not a whiny) way and say things like, “So fun that y’all were able to get together! Let me know for next time – I’d love to see you again!” Once, one of the other girls and I actually did make a plan to get together in her hometown, but she later cancelled on me. No big deal…things happen. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt.
I blinked down at this new photo that had just popped up on social media. It was a handful of the girls from the trip celebrating at one’s wedding. It appeared that they all took part in the wedding as her bridesmaids, while I wasn’t even invited at all. To be fair, I fully support her right to have whomever she wants at her wedding. I just didn’t understand why they were all included, and I was left out…again. I thought we were friends, too.
I wish I could say the biggest emotion I felt upon seeing this photo was pure happiness for my friend getting to marry her sweetheart. Instead, tears filled my eyes and my heart cracked open, prayers spilling over. It wasn’t the wedding, it was all of it. All the times I’d been left out by these girls over the past year bubbled up all at once, and all I could do was cry. Lord, I sobbed, I believe you have to be a friend to have a friend. I have prayed over these girls, texted with them in the middle of the night, encouraged them, tried my best. So it really stinking hurts to realize that I have been left out and left hanging these past several months. The only common denominator here seems to be…me. Did I do something wrong? Were we not as close as I thought? Have I not been a good friend to them? Did they just forget about me?
In the end, I don’t think knowing any of these answers would really have satisfied my soul. So I cried it out with Jesus and asked Him to help me see where I need to grow as a friend, and help me find other connections that will satiate my need for community. I began to realize that if I had a stronger community of local friends to lean on and love with, these incidents of being left out would not cut quite as deep.
The next day, I opened my devotional to this passage from Isaiah:
“But you, Israel, My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
Descendant of Abraham My friend,
You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its remotest parts
And said to you, ‘You are My servant,
I have chosen you and not rejected you.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” (Isaiah 41:8-10, emphasis mine)
Y’all. Nobody can ever tell me our God doesn’t care about the smallest things, even one little aching, lonely heart. My Father knows being left out taps into all my abandonment and self-worth issues that are on the way to being healed, but aren’t there yet. And here He was, showing up and letting me know the truth about exactly how cherished and chosen and worthwhile I am in Him. I felt the Lord whispering three things to my heart that I want to keep hidden there for times exactly like these:
When you are rejected, be a welcomer.
When you are forgotten, be a rememberer.
When you are left out, be an includer.
There’s something about reaching out to someone else and focusing on her story and how I can be a better friend to her that gets me out of the tangled mess of thoughts in my own head every time. I realized instead of sitting around being sad about how lonely I was, I needed to touch base with a true friend – and not just to pour out my own junk, but to listen to her, support her, and genuinely connect with her.
As soon as I figured this out, I reached out to my bestie of 12+ years, and we realized we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of months. No wonder I was feeling like crap! Jesus continued to turn lightbulbs on during our conversation. As it turned out, we were both feeling isolated for independent reasons and it was a good and right thing that we had decided to intentionally get together. We now have a standing coffee date every Monday, and we have been scheming and dreaming up big plans for monthly girls’ nights, and a new book club to replace the one that fizzled and died. Our new intentional community-building is giving me life, and she tells me she feels the same way. From the ashes of my Uganda community, something new is rising up.
I don’t blame my Uganda friends for living their lives and having fun without me, but I know now not to count them as the close friends I thought they might become. Sometimes life just moves in different directions, and people grow apart. I’m 100% sure I have also failed to hold onto people who considered themselves to be close to me as well. People will always disappoint and fail us, and we will disappoint and fail them, but God is still good at setting the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6) and replacing our heaviness with praise (Isaiah 61:3). Until I get home to Jesus and all these wounds are healed, all I can do is try to remember His reassurances to me when I am lonely, and remember that He is no stranger to rejection and heartache. And when I am rejected, I will be a welcomer. When I am forgotten, I will be a rememberer. When I am left out, I will be an includer.