Why don’t we feel welcome in places where we should?
It’s Christmas, and about a billion people are going to parties, gatherings, and galas galore. But very few of us will actually feel like anyone wants us there, loves us while we’re present, or makes us feel like we belong.
Tonight is my wife’s staff Christmas party and I’ll be playing the role of loving husband. Tomorrow is my staff Christmas party and she’ll be playing the role of loving wife. We do actually love each other, and are eager to show our mutual support in public, but the fact remains she will feel like tomorrow is MY event and I will feel like tonight is HERS.
We rarely feel like we belong. And that sucks.
The suck compounds in places where we feel like we SHOULD belong. For example, many people feel like they don’t belong in their own home or in their own family, especially around Christmas. They don’t feel welcome or loved with their parents or siblings or friends.
And it hurts.
Which is why we often go to extreme lengths in order to make ourselves loved. We try and earn a place for ourselves at the table, so to speak, by being funny or successful or generous or interesting or whatever.
But it rarely works out the way we’d hoped. Because you can’t control whether or not other people love and welcome you.
Among Herod’s many foibles was his attempt to earn a place in the hearts of the Jews by building them a spectacular new temple. His temple featured an enlarged Court of the Gentiles, nearly 5x as big as the Gentile Court in the previous temple.
If you recall, Herod was an Idumean–which is to say he wasn’t Jewish. So, the Court of the Gentiles was the only place where he would have been allowed to visit. By expanding the Gentile Court Herod was hoping to gain influence, gratitude, and a sense of belonging from the very establishment that had often made him feel like an outsider.
But it didn’t work for two reasons. Firstly because no matter what he built, he wouldn’t be permitted past the Gentile Court anyway–so he’d never be an “insider.” Second, with his many illnesses Herod wouldn’t have been permitted even in the Gentile Court because he was disgustingly unhygienic. The Temple had strict cleansing requirements, even in the outer courts, and Herod’s many diseases would have prevented his entry (though, it’s worth nothing, that Herod was hardly ever well enough to visit anyway).
In the end, Herod’s attempt to elbow his way into the hearts and community of Judea failed. Like ours often fail, too.
The point is this: don’t try and compel others to love you. Just love them. They may love you back, or not. They may welcome you, or not. But the harder you try and make them love you, the less likely they are to actually return that love. Just relax, knowing you belong to a much bigger family where you are loved all the time no matter what.