When You’re Outside the Circle

Under the big oak tree...

A circle of girls forms at the foot of a tall oak.

Fingers interlace and lock tight. Tiny feet shift and hop.

Two girls twist free and run to get a drink. Hands stretch across the gap, pulling along girls from each side until fingers interlace and hands are locked tight again. What started as circle has stretched into a wiggling, giggling caterpillar.

A couple of stragglers wander over from the crafts table and stand quiet, eyeing the circle. Their hands hang at their sides, fidget, scratch an itchy knee, sweep hair behind an ear. Two girls search for a safe place to join in.

“Girls. girls.” she says firmly. “Tammy, let Marcella in. Denise, over here, Hon.'”

Our Bluebird leader motions with her head toward a gap she’s formed for the stragglers. “Two giant steps back, everyone. C’mon now, Dena and Carrie still need in.”

Hands lock tight and the circle stretches wide under the tree.

Tina’s mom is the Bluebird leader. She’s teaching a new song today.

“Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver and the other is gold.”

I was part of that circle. The tune was sing-songy and we picked it up fast. We sang it over and over again. But the song made no sense to me. No sense at all.

I knew everyone there. We all knew each other. Who could we possibly find around here to be our new friends? Our town was small. Most people lived in the same house from the time they were born till the time they left home. I figured the girls in that circle were just about it, as far as friends were concerned.

And what about keep the old.  I was six, I met half of the girls the year before in kindergarten. Really now, is there anything old about friends to a first grader?

The the second line of the song eluded me as much as the first. Some were silver? And others, gold?

I didn’t get that song. And, really, I didn’t get Bluebirds either. But I never forgot what it felt like to be on the outside of the circle.

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I’ve moved quite a few times since then. My world’s grown bigger. So I know what it’s like to be the new person and what it means to leave old friends. Even when I stay put, it seems like change brings people in and takes others out.

It seems like women were made to somehow be part of a circle. But to be part of the circle you have to be willing to open your hands. Open your hands to accept another person’s invitation, and at other times open yours to invite someone in.

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Our family attended a church for a few years, but I still didn’t know many women there. Interacting with people on Sunday mornings at church helped us get acquainted, but that’s not the same as really getting to know people—and belonging.

When an upcoming women’s retreat was announced, I decided to sign up. It sounded like a great way to get to know some women.

All was fine, until I pulled into the parking lot of the retreat center and saw all the cars there. I opened the trunk and heard laughter coming from inside the lodge and I got that feeling. That standing-there-nervous-hands-and-nervous-tummy-little-girl feeling. The one that comes when you’re outside the circle.

I tried to shake it off and not let my imagination run wild with it. You know the part of you who pictures everyone totally ignoring you the entire two days. Fortunately the sign-up table was just inside the door so there wasn’t time for my imagination to get very far.

As I walked in, there was Karen, a woman who’d befriended me right after we started attending. She looked up from the table and her eyes brightened, “Hey, come on in. We saved a bunk for you.”

We saved a bunk for you.
My ears heard six little words, but my heart heard it loud and clear:
YOU BELONG.

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That’s what we need to hear, girls. That’s what other women are waiting to hear.
Come on in, we’ve saved a bunk for you.

Maybe not in those exact words, but in a gesture, a kindness, an invitation that doesn’t just say Do you want to come? But rather: Come on in we’ve made a place for you.

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“It’s right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart…
God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ.”
—From Philippians 1:8, 9   NIV

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Lord, Wake us up. Help us to see how You long for us to have Holy affection for each other.

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3 thoughts on “When You’re Outside the Circle

  1. ❤ this!!! The great thing is that we've all been part of a circle and we've all stood outside of one, wanting in, at some point. Life purposely conditions us to be able to empathize with others no matter where they stand!!! I love it!! *hug*

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