Left out defined: Excluded, removed from consideration, or ruled out.
A while back, I attended a Christian writers conference known for its friendliness. Unfortunately, instead of feeling welcomed, the above definition described my experience to a T. I spent most of the time by myself because people knew each other from past conferences or came with a buddy.
My reaction was to skip the large group sessions and reduce the number of workshops I attended. Of course, when I did show up for a lecture, I left immediately upon its conclusion.
Forcing myself to attend the end of the week banquet – okay, my husband strongly encouraged me to attend- I sat with a group of women who had roomed together during the conference. While they shared inside stories and jokes, I tried to to engage, but for the most part, silence ensued when I spoke. You see I was a commuter, which apparently made you persona non grata.
IT GET’S WORSE!
After the banquet, one of the women said “let’s take a picture outside and I will send it to everyone.” As I walked outside with the group, I realized they were gathering together and not including me.
Suddenly, they notice me! Holding out the camera, one of the group said, ” So glad you’re still here. Can you please take our picture?”
“Of course, ” I answered. “No problem,” and I dutifully took the picture. I smile as I write this, but it was hurtful and embarrassing at the time.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? EVER FEEL LEFT OUT?
Did you feel left out when you attended a party and stood in the corner hoping no one noticed you were alone and friendless?
How about when you attended a small group and, after the initial friendly introductions, there was no attempt to include you in the conversation. Yes, that even happens at Bible studies. Oh, and the uncomfortable feeling when worshipping at a new church, and not one person acknowledges your presence.
Most of us have felt excluded at one time or another. It’s uncomfortable and makes you want to run away – or at least never return.
After the banquet fiasco, I came to two conclusions:
This welcoming thing is not an easy task.
Perhaps it was partly my fault.
After all, I am an introvert, and sometimes I come off as reserved and standoffish when I don’t mean to it all. In all honesty, my not attending group sessions and leaving immediately only led people to further see me as aloof. It didn’t help my cause.
SO, WHAT’S A ‘LEFT OUT’ WOMAN TO DO?
Well, the Bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun, so I knew biblical women must have known this left out feeling too. So, let’s take a look at a few and see if we can relate. Hopefully, we will learn something too!
LEFT OUT: JEPHTHAH’S DAUHTER (Judges 11: 1-11, 29, & 40)
Jephthah had a difficult life because he was a son of a prostitute and not accepted by the ‘legitimate’ heirs. Yes, he understood that left out feeling.
However, he was a skilled warrior. So, when the Ammonites attacked the Israelites his brothers called on their half-brother to help. To earn their respect Jephthah went to war, but to make sure God was with him he made a rash vow. If God gave him victory, he promised to sacrifice whatever came out of his door first when he returned home!
You guessed it, his daughter, and only child, greeted him first to congratulate him on his victory!
Did he think an animal would come out first? We don’t know, but surely his daughter felt like one of the definitions above for left out: removed from consideration. Why didn’t her father consider her when making this rash vow? And, where was God?
However, she knew a vow to God must be honored and only requested that she be allowed to go to the mountains for two months with friends to mourn that she would never marry. I wonder if Jephthah feared she wouldn’t return? I might not have come back.
Instead of anger, this young woman’s response was to turn to friends in this time of sorrow and grief. Today, it is custom in some Jewish sects for women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of this daughter. So, her gracious spirit still encourages friendships today.
Just an added note: Since God’s laws forbade human sacrifice, there is a debate regarding how the vow was carried out. Most likely, Jephthah’s daughter never married and dedicated her life to God, perhaps in the Temple like Anna. (Luke 2: 36-38) Singleness and childlessness for a woman in biblical times was a great sacrifice.
How can we respond like Jephthah’s Daughter?
Well, first think about this young woman when you feel left out. Perspective, perhaps?
Also, be obedient and cultivate quality friendships. Having someone who speaks truth into our lives without judgment is vital to our well-being and feeling of inclusion. When we feel excluded elsewhere, we can turn to those special people in our lives. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had Elizabeth. Others were Ruth and Naomi, Dorcas’ sewing buddies, and Lydia’s Bible study group. You can look up these women on a search engine, concordance, or the index in your Bible and read about their friendships.
Don’t have friendships like these women of the Bible? Well, try what they did: 1) Mary went to visit and shared a heartfelt experience with Elizabeth. Be open and authentic with trusted women. 2) Ruth was patient with Naomi’s moods and was obedient to her faith. Give people a chance. Don’t make it a one and done thing. 3) Dorcas invited other women to her home and they shared a ministry together! What a way to connect and serve. 4) Lydia joined a group of women who were not like her and learned about their God and was open to new experiences.
Still not sure how to make friends? Click here to find additional ways to develop quality friendships. It will be worth the effort.
LEFT OUT: HANNAH (1 Samuel Chapters 1 and 2)
It was time for the dreaded trip to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. Reluctantly Hannah gathered what she needed and steeled herself for the onslaught of insults from her husband’s other wife, Peninnah.
All year long, Hannah watched Peninnah’s children play while every month passed with no pregnancy. It was hard, but she was able to avoid her sister-wife most of the time; however, on the annual trip to Shiloh, there was no escaping her taunting and cruel words.
Hannah’s first response was to sink into depression, but ultimately, she turned to fervent prayer, including a promise to dedicate her first born son to God. Her praying was done with such passion that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. Uplifted after praying, Hannah ate and was no longer downcast. Yeah, eating does that for me too.
In reality, the depression lifted because of her conversation with God and faith that she was not left out of God’s family. She knew God’s answer was best. So, how did God answer her prayer? She gave birth to a son, Samuel, whom she dedicated to God. Over the next years God blessed her with five other children.
How can we respond like Hannah?
Hannah knew that going to God was the answer, She didn’t just pray, but she spoke to God with passion and authenticity, which gave her a sense of relief. She knew God included her in HIs family. Ask God for faith and leave it with God. Whatever the outcome, God is on our side.
LEFT OUT: WOMAN AT THE WELL (John 4: 7-42)
Gathering at the well was the Facebook of biblical times. The women fetched water in the morning and evening and caught up on the local gossip too. However, the Bible tells us this particular Samaritan woman came at noon – the hottest time of the day.
Most likely she was avoiding the other women. You see, she was a woman of ill-repute. She lived with a man she was not married to, and the multiple marriages in her past were shameful and condemned by the “righteous” women.
Of course, she was surprised when Jesus engaged her in conversation. Amazingly, she tried to exclude Him by reminding our Savior that it was not proper for a Jewish man to talk to a woman in public, especially a Samaritan woman. However, Jesus persisted, and she grew excited at what she heard. She learned that, despite her sinful life, she was not left out of salvation.
Her response was to open her heart to this man’s message; moreover, she allowed His words to break through her avoidance of others, sharing the message her heart knew was true. Once again, God uses a broken person to meet the spiritual needs of others.
How can we respond like the woman at the well?
Opening your heart to listen to Jesus will break down the walls that disconnect you with others. Like the Samaritan woman open your heart to hear what Jesus has to say through sermons, Bible study, and other ways God speaks.
Don’t isolate yourself. Avoiding others is not the way to overcome the feeling of exclusion. The woman at the well learned this after years of dodging people. (I know this speaks to me and how I handled the conference) When she realized that she was not left out of God’s family and shared this Good News with others, she was no longer excluded.
ONCE EXCLUDED – NOW INCLUDED CLUB!
And one last thing, don’t exclude others. In fact, see if you can find others being left out and reach out. Draw them together and start a once excluded – now included club!
You are not excluded from this website. In fact, I would love to see more community. Get a conversation going by sharing times you felt left out and how you responded. Or, tell us which of the women mentioned in this post you relate to the most. Go ahead, be like the woman at the well and step out of your comfort zone.