*Note: I wrote this some time ago but have hesitated to publish it in part because it is so raw. There is a lot of emotion wrapped up in the following words (and there are not a few), but perhaps there is also hope, and maybe someone out there may benefit from the knowledge that there are greater goals than fitting in.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3
I have a fourteen-year-old son who is not like other boys his age. His room is nearly immaculate (though I confess a wish that he would apply the same cleanliness standard to parts of the house or van that are not properly “his”). He loves routine and order and does not handle surprises well. He is not into sports.
He struggles socially, sometimes uses an inappropriately loud voice, and seems to find it much easier to befriend boys younger than him than kids his own age. My son has developed a tic or two in recent years that becomes worse when he is tired or stressed. He is very particular about textures and noise levels.
Thus far, I have refrained from labeling him; instead, my husband and I have embraced him exactly how he is, differences and all. We have an experiential understanding of such differences and so aim for training him to cope with life, teaching him the hard lessons we have learned and coaching him in what few social skills we have managed to pick up through the years of our own social awkwardness.
As he has grown, many of his guy friends have moved away he is now in a somewhat lonely season of life; a time when the friends within a couple of years of his age can be counted on one hand with fingers left over and friends he sees more often than once a month are even fewer. I hurt for him with each buddy that moves, but I prod him to keep on reaching out, to keep trying.
Complicating matters are past instances when adults have invited him to various events, causing him great excitement. Unfortunately, I have also had to watch his crushing disappointment when he found out later that the event happened without him. Again, I would share his pain, assure him it was an oversight and not actual rejection, and encourage him to keep trying.
I have pressed him to reach out to kids whose company he enjoys, watched him steel himself against his native nervousness and make the calls, watched him try and try until the lack of reciprocity finally made him quit. Again, I have plastered on a smile and told him that people are busy, that it is no reflection on him, that he should not quit trying.
To his enormous credit, I have watched him eagerly and faithfully attend his youth group every week despite the fact that I have seen the photos and videos of him hanging out on the outskirts, have heard his own declaration that he just doesn’t fit in though he still likes being there. And again, his hurt has become my own.
I remember being his age, and I remember being alone. I carried labels like “freak” and “loser,” and I can see him turning those labels over in his mind, wondering if they apply to him.
I try to encourage my son to expand his interests (they are very narrow), to try to take an interest in what other kids do even if it is not his area of expertise. I try to impart to him such lessons as I have learned in my own social struggles, but I think he feels inept and clumsy, and he certainly prefers to retreat into video games or technology.
In the times I weep for my son, for the pain of growing up and of not fitting in, my Lord reminds me that He, too, was rejected. He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He reminds me that I, too, was a misfit and yet He has used me. And He never called any of us to fit in but only to follow Him.
I think that Jesus must have experienced lonesomeness, for who could be more unlike other men than the Son of God on earth?
We are definitely not sinless, but we are not like others, my son and I. It is one tiny way we can share in His suffering, one small thing we can know He understands.
And so I pray that in the midst of his loneliness and social awkwardness, my son will draw near to the Lord. I pray that he will not shut out the only One who can fully understand and actually help. I pray that he will find the peace that can only be found in the mind fixed steadfastly on the Lord.
I pray that video games will no longer be his hiding place, but that he will turn to Jesus alone to find refuge from the pain of life; that he will look to the Lord for the comfort and strength that no game can offer. I pray that the Holy Spirit will navigate him through the confusing teen years complicated by the social awkwardness he apparently inherited from his parents.
Most of all, I pray that in my son’s tight little cocoon of pain, God is working on him even though I cannot see it; changing his faith into something that will someday take flight, exquisite and wonderful to behold. I pray that he will emerge from these trying years and rise up on wings like eagles’, soaring with full confidence in his God.
And I pray that at the end of this invisible, inner struggle, God will use my son to reach those who are bound by the painful and invisible cords of the social misfit, the outcast, the uncool. I pray that he will powerfully share the truth of acceptance into a Kingdom that is so much more glorious than any peer group on earth.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.