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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Hammar

Finding Belonging Even When We're Not Chosen

Published by Sarah K. Butterfield in the Out of Place series.

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.

Photo Credit: A.L. on Unsplash.


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