Ever since I read this quote in 2000, it's stuck with me.
Yes, I feel this. I've felt like a person with no place. Where is my place in society, my place in the world of men? I felt like I had no place, no power, no sense of personhood. I felt like a leaf adrift on the wind, tossed about wherever the wind would pull me. I felt like my peers and my culture were pushing me. Pushing me here and there. You have to get a job. You have to get married. Here, feel this! Here, take that! Here, do this - do that! Respond to this, respond to that. Constantly knocked around, out-of-place. A person with no place. It's a really disempowering feeling, you know?
Something interesting has been happening the past few years, though. I've been learning.
Learning about the birds around me - I thought all the birds were like robins. Sort of silly and irritating. I hadn't met the catbird - that shy and sleek grey Mimidae who darts about the shaded bushes. He's hard to see, but when you catch a glimpse, his black eyes seem to melt into yours. Meanwhile, the finches flock in groups, happily chirping and playfully swapping perching spots on the feeder. Sometimes they sit on the wind spinner and spin around. I once saw a wren jump on the spinner and spin upside down! Some mornings, the song sparrow perches on the powerline next to our driveway and looks about. He is a humble-looking bird - brown and white - but his song is bright and beautiful. You can tell him by the black spot on his chest and by the fact that he likes to poke around wet land for something to eat. And God has blessed us with all of these right in our backyard. I haven't even had a chance to talk about the swallows, vultures, ducks, and others!
I've been learning about plants and their healing properties. The tall cedar tree yields us an oil that's antifungal and can be used to clear the skin from bacteria like the one that causes acne. It's also a very calming, woodsy scent. Then there's the rosemary plant. It's often used in cooking and was once burned in hospitals to clear the air and reduce the spread of infections. Leaves from plants like mullein and flowers from lavender can be steeped to make herbal teas. There are mullein plants growing along most of the roads here - I used to think they were just another weed. But here is a little treasure, a gift that God planted for us to enjoy. He gives so many free blessings - all pointing to His greatest blessing of all, the Messiah.
I've been learning about the phases of the moon, the skies, the planets in their courses. What is that bright red light? Could it be Mars rising in the east? What is the glow beyond the clouds? The bright moon, shining light in the darkness. Watch her peek out from behind the mist. See the rough surface texture - that same moonside has been facing the earth since the beginning. What does its dark side look like? Meanwhile, the stars pass silently overhead, faithful and steady in their stations. I have only to stop, look, breathe, and praise God in the wonder of the night.
I've been learning about the animals - the ones hiding in plain sight. The rabbits that dart around bushes, leaping over each other as they play. The groundhog who busily digs his burrow, looking up now and then to assess things. The white skunk, who lives under our neighbor's shed and comes to snack on seeds at night. The family of raccoons who popped up their heads to look at me from the edge of the cornfield as I drove home last weekend. What rascals! Each of these, God designed. He gave them a personality and asked us to give them a name. Together we share in His praise - with the breath He gave us, we sing a song for our God.
I am finding my place. My place in the midst of this world. Before when I stepped outside, I saw only a misty land of enemies. Forces that wanted to tear and pull and press at me. And that's still there - it hasn't changed. But now, I see more. Now I see encouragement - friendship in the little birds who draws near. Perhaps only for a moment, but a moment of blessing. A gift from God my Father. I see comfort in the healing oil of a plant, in its fortifying aroma and purifying effects. I see myself in a context, within the framework of the handiwork of God. And He is working on me, too. A creation set in motion, growing, healing, suffering, dying, and being reborn in Christ.
Maybe I still don't have a place in the world of men, but I don't need one. I have a place in the midst of the world of God and that is enough for me.