Her mouth was drawn downward as she looked into an animated and giggling crowd of middle schoolers. Her hands were behind her back, and she leaned against a wall, cocking her head to one side, allowing her dark hair to sweep protectively across her face. She said nothing. The students eagerly rushed passed her, not even noticing the lovely wallflower—they were too wrapped up in a silly story someone was sharing. As soon as I entered the room, I noticed her immediately.
I walked up to her and introduce myself as one of the student ministries pastors and discovered her name was Cassie and that she was one of the new 45 six graders we were welcoming that school year. She was timid and didn’t say much. I invited to show her around the student ministries building, but she preferred her wall. She came back the next week, and I visited her wall again. I invited her to sit with me during the service, but she preferred her wall. She came back the next week, and this time I introduced her to my middle school small group co-leader Hannah. She still preferred her wall. The next week, I grabbed two very kind and gentle 6th grade girls from the small group and introduced them to Cassie. She still preferred her wall before and after service, but she did sit with us during the service.
Eventually, she would come to our small group. Eventually, she would become friends with the girls who welcomed her so well. Eventually, she didn’t prefer her wall. Over the course of a school year, I watched Cassie transform from a reluctant wallflower to a shy but happy member of our group. She belonged, and she knew it.
This did not happen overnight and required me to consistently show up where she was.
Sometimes I think we still have that uncertain, maybe even awkward 6th grader in us. Regardless of our age, we have a desire to be seen and to belong. God built that desire in us, so we wouldn’t isolate ourselves but would seek out and enjoy one another in community. I remember moving to a new place and sensing that awkward 6th grader in me. I kept waiting to be welcomed and invited. I waited so long that I finally realized that there were even newer people in my community that might be waiting too. So instead of waiting, I started inviting women into my home. Some come and some don’t, but I keep an open door because I never know who will be the next Cassie. I never know who will need a cup of tea, a listening ear, a sincere prayer.
I took my focus off myself and in the process, God expanded my vision to see the people God loves. In the process, my need for community is met. In the process, I am shifting the culture around me, so that others might also see and act.
Seeking out community might be easier to some than others. Perhaps there are Cassies in your own sphere. Perhaps there are people who have a desire for connection but prefer the safety of their wall. Jesus sees them. Jesus loves them. Which means we do too. Let’s remember our own 6th grader within and reach out to other people and love them well. Let’s truly see people.
Movement Step: Pray and ask God to show you someone to really see this week, someone to have a cup of coffee with or someone to invite to a Bible study or party. Chances are she will be eager to take you up on your offer, but don’t be discouraged if she says no at first. Keep showing up. Keep seeing. Keep loving.