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On the Outside Looking In: How to Navigate “Leperhood”
On the Outside Looking In: How to Navigate “Leperhood”

Two years ago, my sister and I took a trip to Canada. We first stopped in Toronto for a couple days, then went over the water to Prince Edward Island. Although it was sunny and bright where we lived in Orange County, Canada was experiencing the dead of winter. Unbeknownst to us, Canada has “off-seasons.” This is not a word you hear in Southern California, so we assumed everything would be open. Alas, almost everything was closed. And I mean everything.

I’m a huge Anne of Green Gables fan, because my name comes from the TV Show Road to Avonlea, which was a continuation of the AoGG films. So, to my utter disappointment, all of those AoGG museums and shops I had been longing to see in P.E.I. were closed.

I remember going to the Anne of Green Gables Museum, peering into all the windows and trying to see as much as I could. We asked a maintenance worker if we could go in, and he said we would have to ask the office. As I’m looking into a window (as you can see below), a woman suddenly came up to the window on the other side. It nearly scared the pee out of me! She then came out, and I quickly asked her if we could take a look inside. I explained we had come all the way from California, we were leaving in a few days, and I was a huge Anne of Green Gables fan. “Can we just throw money at you so we can take a look?” I asked with a kind grin.

The woman stuck up her nose and said, “It’s not ready for visitors.” Then walked away.

This is how I visualize being left out of things, and feeling like “you’re on the outside looking in.” You can see everything inside, but you are rudely told you are not allowed in.

In moments like these, we are told to “lean on the Lord.” We are then told something like, “The Lord is everything you need. You don’t need friends, you just need Jesus!”

There is truth to that, of course. I just think that advice can be very minimizing of the innate desire in all of us for companionship. Yes, that desire was placed there by God, and ultimately only He can satisfy it. However, giving people abstract advice like “lean on the Lord” isn’t practical advice. How do we trust God when we are so rudely brushed aside by other people? Or what do we do when we are specifically left out of activities for no reason we’re aware of? Or how do we cope when people are intentionally trying to ruin our reputation by spreading vicious lies and gossip?

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Here’s another story for you. I once went through a program at Biola University called “spiritual direction.” It’s like therapy, but instead of talking about life’s problems, you talk about your relationship with God. One session, my spiritual director read to me the passage where Jesus heals a leper (Matthew 8:1-4). She then told me to close my eyes as she read the passage again, but this time imagine that I was the leper. How did it feel to ask God to heal me, in front of so many people that had ignored, isolated, and judged me for something out of my control?

Then she asked, “Now imagine Jesus looks over the crowd after healing you, and He says something to the crowd. What does He say?” She let me pause to think, eyes still closed, sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

“He says, ‘This is Felicity, and she’s my girl.'”

At that, I began to cry.

So often times, I felt like a leper around the people around me. I couldn’t understand why some girls had more friends, or more guys after them. Some girls I knew got lots of awards at speech tournaments, and got to network with important people. Other times I would be around a bunch of people, but feel so alone. I had been rejected and abandoned by two guys already, both whom I had loved unconditionally and absolutely.

It is so easy to feel after rejection by man, that God has rejected us, too. Perhaps He was even responsible for the rejection in the first place.

So, to see Jesus in my mind tell the whole world, that despite my leprosy, I was “His girl”, I broke down in a puddle of tears by the feeling of being loved, cherished, and wanted.

Maybe you are feeling isolated. You might feel that way at church, work, school, your family, your friends, or your community. Know that your feelings exist and are normal.

By the way, it is typical for the people that ignore you to claim your feelings are self-created or even nonexistent. (A couple months ago, a guy looked me in the eye and told me that I was “the only person who feels that way” and that I isolate myself from the group. (HA! If you know me, you know I am the opposite of shy in social situations.) Later, I got phone calls from other people who had since left that community, to tell me they had felt the exact same way. So there!) Don’t listen to that negative talk. It is insensitive and self-centered. Also, try not to just blame yourself for not being welcomed into a particular group. Don’t assume you are just “shy” or “unsociable.” It really could be those people who are just alienating you.

Rather, focus on the people who do love you. If you need to, write out a list of all the people in your life that cherish you and care about all aspects of your life. Think of them when you are around the people who make you feel abnormal or unwanted.

Also, realize those people who reject you are not worth having as friends anyways. If their approval is that hard to attain, their approval is not worth much. God loves us completely with no strings attached. Why should man do any differently?

If you are able, you may need to completely separate yourself from those people. I recently had to make that decision for myself. It meant I had to give up a lot of things in the process, but I have felt a burden lift from my shoulders and a complete freedom to be who God created me to be.

One resource I would highly suggest is Anne Graham Lotz’s book Wounded by God’s People: Discovering How God’s Love Heals Our Hearts. (You can buy it here.) I have been meaning to read it again for myself, actually. It is an incredibly powerful book, that gives practical advice how to heal after you’ve been mistreated by other Christians. It is a complete must-read.

And of course, pray. Ask the Lord to heal how these people have hurt you. Ask for the strength to daily forgive them (something I need to get better at myself!). Thank Him for the people who do appreciate you. Ultimately, confess to the Lord exactly how you feel about the situation, and what are the deeper reasons their cold-shoulder hurts you so.

I hope one day to go back to P.E.I. so I can fully enjoy everything during its “on-season.” In the meantime, I am learning how to not let the “boo’s” in my audience silence the applause – as in, trying not to focus on the people who reject me, but rather focus on the people who support me.

What about you? Talk to us about what you think about these kinds of situations, and how we can handle them.

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