Humans are inherently pack animals. I think it’s bred into our souls to walk together. Hillary Clinton says it takes a village to raise a child, and even Jesus chose twelve disciples. We all huddle together as families and units, and choose folks that think and eat and pray like we do. When we stray too far from the herd, we are weak and vulnerable. Wolves surround us and start closing in. It’s safer to stay hunkered down in the middle.
And yet safe is boring. So I start breaking free.
Growing up, I drifted around amongst the ranks. I struggled to succeed in music. I barely made the tennis team. I waved at the cheerleaders on the sidelines. I was a debater, a participant in all forms of dorky clubs, and a lover of English. In college, I was a Resident Assistant in the dorms and hung out with the music nerds. I couldn’t figure out where I belonged as I darted between the herds. I wanted to find my own people.
Finally, I met a man who would become my husband. He, like me, was a wanderer. A strange fellow without a home. Together, we formed our own pack, and I finally knew the feeling of being a part of something. And over the years, through blessings and trials of all kinds, I saw that I was a part of something bigger. I realized that God was there during all my darting and drifting.
I wasn’t alone after all.
As I grow into parenthood, I see so much segregation. There are the church groups, and the private school moms, and the writers. There are the artists and the musicians and the book club folks. I still find myself sprinting between them and hope it’s not too obvious I’m not a regular. There are times I put on a frilly top with leggings and bangle bracelets and stay in one group for a while, only to feel the longing to leave and join the ranks of another. So I put on my running shoes and sprint quickly through the desolate fields between them. I don’t want to be eaten by wolves. I don’t want to be caught in the middle. I want to be squarely in the pack. For safety.
I wrote a quote to put in my daughter’s room, because I think a mother’s words are powerful. It reads:
Be brave. It’s more important that you try new things and fail than to sit comfortably in an easy place succeeding. Don’t feel that your failures will ever disappoint me, for in those failures you learn character, and strength, and perspective.
Think higher. Dream bigger. God expects you to use your talents to their very fullest.
You are never alone.
Maybe not fitting in is a good thing. Perhaps in the times we are afraid and vulnerable, running in the wide open fields of doubt, we find our true footing. We can rest in the comfort that God is our Shepherd. We can look at the wolves and think you can’t touch me. After all, others are running too. Left and right they dart amongst safe places. We grab hands with these believers and form our own rag-tag herd. We laugh. We pray. And we fail. But we keep on running.
For we are loved, and we are not alone, that’s what really matters.
By Amanda B. Hill, hill + pen