In high school, there was a group of guys. And they, in my view, were cool. Not cool by the standards of how others would gauge cool – hot looks, mad sports skillz, that sort of drack. They were cool because they were unique. They weren’t afraid of being themselves. They fired off Tarzan yells from a little cassette player at the drive-in movie during love scenes. Now THAT’S cool!
And I desperately wanted to be one of them.
A couple of them played guitars. They played in bands. They did, at least in my own imagination, many other amazing and wonderful things each day, the details of which, were mere mortals like myself to know them, would make them weep with the sheer weight of their awesomeness.
And boy howdy, did I ever want to be one of “them.”
And boy howdy, was I ever not one of them. Not even close.
Not to say that I didn’t know them, that we weren’t at least acquainted, or that they were so snooty and cliquesque that they wouldn’t even notice my existence. Nope. I just wasn’t one of them.
Like most teens, I wanted desperately to belong, to be a part of some group someplace. It would be years and years before I ever came to understand that I’m not really a “belong” sort of person. I’m more of a “hang on the fringes and observe” type of person or a “comfortable with my beloved and a small list of close friends but not really totally integrated into any group” type of person. And years and years more before I came to accept that.
And every once in a while I catch myself in that behavior. I’ll hover around the edge of a group, imagining all the camaraderie and fun they must be having together, and begin wishing I was a part of their “club.” Trying to fill some sort of void I think I perceive in my own existence by filling the lonely hole with belonging.
I call it the Lost Puppy Lesson. Hovering around the edges like a little lost puppy, hoping that someone will take me in and give me a home.
(I think my mom first gave it that name when she would laugh a bit about my attempts to fit into this or that group. Not quite sure why she needed to revisit those memories, or find amusement at them, but there it is.)
Recently, I’ve been wondering if I’m dancing around that lesson once again, hovering around the edges of somewhere I was employed for a very long time. I do a little bit of part-time work there, which is cool, but I’m wondering if, by keeping my “foot in the door” (so to speak), on some level I’m doing the Lost Puppy thing, hoping to get taken in, to be welcomed back and officially be part of “the group.”
Which isn’t cool, for the record. At least, not for me.
What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that I don’t need to look for something external to “belong to” in an attempt to fill some sort of hole or void. If there’s a hole, the solution won’t be found out there – the place to look is within, usually in the area of having stepped away from where I belong in relationship to my Father. As always, if I feel distant from Him, He’s not the one who moved. If I’m feeling disconnected, I’m probably the one who pulled the plug.
Ok, so knowing that, I now have a grid to process things through. In the case of my part-time work, am I hovering around the edges, hoping to be let back in and to belong? Honestly, maybe a little bit – but I think it’s more a desire for some sort of regular work and income. I don’t think I’m searching for something to fill an emotional hole, but rather something to help in an increasingly tight financial situation. A little stability in a stormy sea.
I think God uses our past lessons to help us navigate our present path. The question is, will we mindfully look at where we are through the lens of what we’ve learned?
One more thing to add to that – using the lessons learned is alright, as long as we allow Him to teach us through them and not let our past be an open door for all sorts of regrets to reach out and choke us. God doesn’t intend for us to live in our regrets, but rather to commit our past to His keeping, and our present to His grace.
The final thought: sometimes, in God’s grace and timing, good can come from the Lost Puppy Lesson…
If I hadn’t wanted so desperately to be a part of that group from high school, I wouldn’t have fixed my eyes on a certain instrument, one that would enable me to jam along and (hopefully, in my eyes) let me “in.” At the very least I wouldn’t have pursued that instrument so desperately at that time. The group of guys came and went (and I’m friends on Facebook with a couple of them!), and I moved on to other lessons and other puppy pursuits from time to time, becoming a little wiser for the wear.
Yet that instrument – my attempt to become one of them – remains a huge part of my life. I think of the guys sometimes on Sunday mornings when I’m part of the worship team at First Cov…
playing my bass guitar.
The one I play now has six strings and no frets, but the black and white four-string Electra bass that my grandmother bought me (after much begging, I’ll admit, and much thankfulness) set my feet on the path. Thanks guys, especially Jeff – I had no idea at the time that a case of wanting to be part of the cool dudes would turn into a lifetime of joy playing bass.
The moral of the story? Sometimes puppies learn cool tricks, that they still do as old dogs.