The bell rings, books slam shut, doors burst open and a flood of little feet hit the pavement. It’s recess time.
I remember it well — a release from boredom, the outdoor exuberance, team sports and the sheer joy of running. There on the ball field, long before ABC’s Wide World of Sports made it popular, we experienced the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.
But not everyone looked forward to recess. What brought joy and excitement to me caused trepidation in others. Outdoors they would be expected to join a team. They would be thrust into a game for which they had no physical aptitude. Two captains would pick one by one, from a long line of eager faces. Once again, the unfortunate few would be left until last. Once again they would be chosen because no one else was available.
The pain of those experiences has been at times mitigated by an ironic bit of poetic justice. A natural aptitude for sports does not necessarily equate with future success. Many of those “captains” now work for the very ones they judged so inept.
Yet much of our human essence is caught up in an innate desire to belong, to be part of a group, to fit in. Even “loners” are often secretly ruled by peer pressure. All of us unthinkingly catalog our own worth and that of others based on perceived social or economic status.
And that’s the lingering stigma of those early school teams. Each was made up of at least two groups — the wanted and the unwanted. Both were part of the team, but only one group felt like they truly belonged.
Some find this imperfect dynamic within their local churches. It’s as if they don’t have the right skill, the appropriate income or textbook family. They come each Sabbath, but they are always on the outside of the circle. They sit in the pew, in the church but not of it.
Does God have a pecking order in His house? Does He include a few just out of obligation? "Higher than the highest human thought is God's ideal for His children," says Sister Ellen. And none of us, on our own accord, measure up.
Yet, the apostle Paul, who knew something about group dynamics, reminds us that we have all been chosen. We’ve been chosen by Someone who wanted us so badly that He paid an incalculable price.
Eph. 1:4 says, “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” The Message version adds some additional nuance: “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.”
This next Sabbath, put your arm around someone and let them know they are wanted. They've been chosen on the merits of our Father's sacrificial love for them as the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8).
And because of that, they belong.