Out of Place – Marnie’s Story
Just weeks before high school started, we left a bustle-y, colorful South Jersey town for this sleepy, tucked-in-the-hills community in southern Ohio. From East coast to Midwest. From urban to country. From 600 students in my class to 64. From Burger King to Burger Shack. In that town of less than 3,000 people, everyone knew when the new preacher and his family pulled in from New Jersey.
And so, we arrived at that corner church on Main Street with our Jesus, just in time for my freshman year — not knowing what biscuits ’n gravy was, ordering “soda” in a decidedly “pop” town, and definitely wearing the wrong haircut.
Meeting people wasn’t hard. Everyone was friendly. But in this town where everyone had grown up together, weathering the hard and thin times together, I didn’t know how to relate. I felt so very different.
Of course, I didn’t understand that our move added confusion and challenge to years that are already stamped as difficult to navigate. I wish I could tell that fourteen-year-old me that growing my hair out and changing how I dressed and being overly friendly with the boys wouldn’t offer what I was seeking.
After filling notebooks with bad poetry about loneliness, there was that one week in the summer after my sophomore year. I know the words “church camp” conjure up Christian clichés of kum-bay-ah and campfire confessions and butane curling irons. But as a preacher’s daughter, with my knowledge of God and church so intertwined with my dad, church camp presented my first experience to meet God on my own. Though my family arrived in that small town to bring the good news of Jesus, I needed to leave that town to find Him for myself.
That dated lodge and the musty cabins and the quiet trails were the first place I felt what it was like to just fall in and float. To be caught and held up. The thick layers of scratchy loneliness and insecurity I wore so closely at home stayed folded in my suitcase.
I could breathe.
Chosen to belong
In some ways, it doesn’t matter where these two realities unfolded. Where they occurred is far less the point than the gift that they occurred. The lesson tucked in my story is less about the places, and more about the wakening. I glimpsed the beauty of authentic welcome. I felt that indescribable undercurrent of instant acceptance. I rested into an invitation to just, simply, be.
For one week, I had tasted being at peace with who I was. I felt settled because I felt chosen.
The sweetness of discovering that I could belong carried me through the desert of the years ahead.
As I look back, it isn’t that I wasn’t invited. I found some dear friends after that. It’s more that I didn’t know how to be “me” even when I didn’t feel chosen, because I didn’t understand Who does the choosing.
I wanted to be chosen by people.
I can still face-plant into this trap. I still want to be liked, accepted, invited. I still hate to be left out. But when I lasso my belonging to people, at some point, I’m going to find myself being dragged along for a bumpy, painful ride.
But His yoke is easy — His burden is light. When I attach my belonging to Him, I have a defined, unchanging place to walk right next to Him, as He steers and turns and holds the bulk of the load.
It was never His intent that people would choose me. They didn’t even choose His perfect son. His intent was that He would choose me. And He did, long ago, before the foundation of the world. When I showed up at camp, I felt at home because they saw who He sees: a chosen daughter of the King. A member of the royal priesthood.
All of those years of the wrong haircut and the terrible poetry, He had already chosen me. I didn’t know that the acceptance and love I receive as His daughter stands above any and every small-town scenario I would ever walk through.
When I don’t feel settled.
When I don’t say the right things.
When I’m misunderstood.
When I don’t get enough likes.
When I feel overlooked.
When I mess up. Again.
I am chosen.
I can walk in freedom because He is my friend, and He chooses me. Every time.
“I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:15b-16a)
“…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Ephesians 1:4)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 1:4)
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!
Meet Marnie Hammar
A writer and speaker, Marnie encourages women that freedom isn’t found in perfectly completed checklists, but in knowing God deeper and hearing Him louder.
Marnie is the curator for the Hear Him Louder Essay Series, a writer for the Devotion Team and the Blog Contributor Team for The Joyful Life Magazine, and a lifetime member of hope*writers. Wife for 25 years and boy mama (16, 13, & 10), Marnie’s non-writing life revolves around taming the stinky, scraping off the sticky, and distributing boys to the places they go in suburban Cincinnati. Her favorites are cheering for her boys from soccer sidelines, settling in for family movie nite, and laughing with her friends. Loudly. With some cackling.