Mindy Kaling, perhaps best known for her role as Kelly Kapoor on the television series, The Office, wrote a book in 2011 called, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). The book is a collection of humorous, biographical essays that I read a year ago, a year ago when everyone was hanging out without me, and boy, did I have concerns!
I went to work one Monday morning in September 2014, and began my day in the usual way. Two hours later, I was handing over my keys and my phone, and packing up my belongings, I'd just lost my job.
Believe it or not, the worst part of losing my job was that only one co-worker called me afterwards to see if I was all right. Silly me-over the course of seven years-I thought we were all friends. We were, as the studio manager used to say, “one big happy dysfunctional family.” After all, we were each others' social life a lot of the time. We worked nights, we worked weekends, we ate together, we traveled together, we had inside jokes, we had no choice but to bond, and I liked that. And now it was gone; they were gone. Totally.
Feeling alone felt so awful, I couldn't stand it, so I found myself going to the library a lot. Books became my comfort because it was what I needed. I grasped for any title that caught my eye, soon realizing that I was grasping for God through books by Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Gary Chapman, TD Jakes, and yes, even Mindy Kaling, because a little humor goes a long way.
"You know," someone said to me, "that's good, reading all those books and watching Joel Osteen on tv, but nothing can take the place of worshipping with people."
It made sense. Losing my co-workers meant losing a family and friends, not to mention some trust. Losing my job meant losing my creative outlet, not to mention my income. These things just added to the list of losses I had experienced over the last few years. I couldn't take anymore losses, but at the same time, I knew I had to be careful not to isolate myself.
Fast forward to the summer of 2015 when I relented and decided to "worship with people" at FPC for the first time. On my way out at the end of the Contemporary Service that first day, a young woman said hello to me, but it didn't feel like any old hello. It was warm, it was thoughtful, it was sincere, it was I-know-you. But she didn't. And then the same thing happened the next week and the week after that. The same woman. But why? She doesn't even know me. Yet she made me feel like she wanted to know me. How ironic that I had never experienced that at a church before!
Then it began to snowball: another stranger, a band member, an acquaintance, another stranger, all delivering the same message but in different ways:
"We want you."
"I'm glad you're here."
"We hope you'll come back."
"If you need to talk about anything, you come see me."
These were words I so desperately needed to hear because, in my sea of losses, I wasn't sure I had any right to be there. Technically speaking, I'm Catholic. Technically speaking, I'm not a member of FPC. Technically speaking, I was lost. So, I felt like I needed permission.
And then, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, in walked guest preacher, Rev. Dr. Jim Singleton, Jr. The topic of his sermon was "Jesus Came for Us to Receive Adoption as Children," and this is what struck me.
He said, "...When you are adopted, there are struggles...There's something in adoption circles called Reactive Attachment Disorder, which sometimes means that a child who's been living in another family doesn't immediately attach to yours and trust...So also with God, sometimes we don't trust, because the person who has Reactive Attachment Disorder basically feels I've got to trust only me. I'm not sure I can trust these people...
"Sometimes an adoptive child will think about the old life...You'll find Christians, once we come to Christ, sometimes we start thinking about who we used to be, and what we used to do, and who we used to hang out with...See, being adopted as a child of God is not altogether an easy thing; because it is our new identity. And yet some days, it doesn't seem to fit, and we've got to step more deeply into that...
"Are you yearning for more? Are you having those senses like, I want to step into that identity in a greater way? Because you see, when you know this, when you live as a beloved child of God, it makes all the difference."
I got tears in my eyes after I heard that, because in that moment, my thoughts and my feelings were validated. It's anything but easy to walk into a churchful of strangers, feeling like you belong, while believing that you don't.
Rev. Singleton understood me that day, and his suggestion was to step more deeply.
God understood me that day too. His suggestion was to live as a beloved child of God.
As for Mindy Kaling, she wrote a new book. It's called Why Not Me? I like that title much better. Totally!
About the Author
Katie McDonald has been attending FPC-Bethlehem since the first day of summer 2015, and the experience has been so profound, she writes about it. She likes the Bethlehem Press newspaper, musical theatre, tennis, the art of brainstorming, and the exception to the rule. She dislikes long intros in books, music, and otherwise. Enough said ;-)