I was sitting in the Courthouse cattle-call room waiting for a hearing to begin when my colleague’s casual statement left me hurting for days.
There’s a group of ten of us going to dinner over Labor Day weekend since Lauren Strickland and her husband will be in town. Any idea where I can rent a party bus to drive us around?
“Wait, what?” I thought.
As background, I went to law school with Lauren and we were close friends (in my mind) before she and her family relocated to Houston to accommodate her husband’s job in the oil industry.
Until she moved three years ago, Lauren and I spent a good amount of time together. I hosted her son’s first birthday party at my house when her own home was under construction and arranged a meal train when her mother was in a car accident.
Here’s why my feelings were hurt: I had no clue Lauren was coming to town. She never once reached out, and I found out about her plans only coincidentally through the grapevine.
In Lauren’s defense, aside from exchanging holiday cards and the occasional text message, we pretty much lost touch after she moved. Our kids got older, things got busy with our careers and hobbies, and life happened. Also in her defense, she has a million friends and it likely wouldn’t be possible for her to connect with all of them in whatever timeframe she’d be in town.
But dang, it still hurt.
My mind started racing.
Did I say or do something wrong?
I jumped to conclusions. Told myself maybe this dinner got thrown together at the last minute and the exclusion was simply an oversight. Then, my internal Negative Nelly reminded me that Labor Day was still a month away and these dinner plans were probably in motion for a while. She could have reached out to me if she had time to reach out to “all these other people.”
Maybe it’s a mistake and Lauren did reach out to me and I somehow missed it. Scrolling through e-mails, texts, and Facebook messenger confirmed I didn’t miss anything. She just never reached out.
I confided in my husband and a friend about my hurt feelings (and ego) and got over it a couple days later. (Okay, okay… got over it defined as still annoyed, but no longer angry or hurt.)
Fast forward a couple weeks. One of my best friends from college, Melissa, decided to come to town for the holiday weekend. She and her family live in Oakland, California, and we hardly ever get to see each other. Rounding up, we’ve been friends for… gulp… nearly twenty years. To celebrate her coming to town, some of my other longtime college friends and I planned a Girls Night Out (In?) in Sarasota. It was perfect. We were alone without kids or husbands, rented movies, and talked about life while drinking wine in our pajamas.
Here’s the thing.
If Lauren would have reached out to me, then I probably would have made plans with her and not been able to see Melissa or my other friends over Labor Day. I would have declined Melissa’s invitation because I already accepted Lauren’s.
I would have traded girls my lifelong best friends for someone who, while awesome, isn’t ultimately meant to be part of this season of my life.
God’s plans are always better than our own.
There are no accidents. God (the universe… whatever you believe) doesn’t work in a way where we are not supposed to be exactly where we already are. When we are hurting and feeling left out, we have to trust that the suffering is temporary and part of a larger set of plans. Plans we can’t understand at the time.
Even when it’s hard or hurtful at the time, you have to completely trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
Social media makes it easy to feel excluded.
Twenty years ago, unless someone told us, we didn’t know if we were left out of something. Now, we get to see these events unfold in real time.
Photos of birthday dinners, girls nights out, and vacation weekends you weren’t invited to.
If you’re single, pictures of your ex galavanting around Europe with his new paramour.
If you’re in an unsatisfying marriage, seeing other peoples’ family photos and assuming their lives are happier than yours.
Reading newspaper articles highlighting how well your business competitors are doing when you’re on a hamster wheel struggling to make ends meet.
Feeling like you’re at an “in-between” part of your life and scrolling through Instagram and fantasizing about how everyone else has it better.
Shoot, the holidays can trigger major FOMO (“fear of missing out”) when you see pictures of your friends at parties where you weren’t included. (Aside from the fact that it was a private work function or an event where you’ve never exchanged more than two words with the host, making an invitation awkward but THAT LOOKED FUN, DANGIT!)
All these things can all be painful if you forget that you weren’t meant to be at those places or with those people to begin with. For reasons that will eventually reveal themselves, you are already exactly where you are supposed to be.
This has proven to be true in so many areas of my life.
We are all connected. Everything has to happen the way it eventually unfolds.
Feeling excluded enables you to be more compassionate and empathetic to others when they are going through the same thing. You’d never be able to get to that place of connection if you didn’t experience rejection yourself.
Make no mistake. Me having this realization doesn’t mean “Poof, I’m cured of feeling hurt and left out.” I still struggle with these things, but trust me, knowing and believing that I am exactly where God wants me to be with who he wants me to be takes away a lot of the sting.
When you are feeling excluded and set aside, just remember this: if you aren’t there, then you weren’t supposed to be there. God had something better planned.