"Fringe people". That is a new term for me. It refers to people who are on the fringe of a group, those on the outside looking in, so to speak. They are like fringe on a garment, right on the edge. They are a part, but just barely.
I have been one of those fringe people. I never thought of myself that way, but it is a pretty good description. I was definitely one growing up. And I still am to a degree.
I was in the same church all my life til about 5 years ago. We came to a point where it was time for a change. We moved to another church...a much larger church where we knew almost no one. My husband works most Sundays, so I went alone most of the time. At my home church, even if I sat alone there were people around me that I knew, but here it was different. I was the outsider. It took a while to find a Sunday School class, but once I did, I was immediately made to feel welcome. From the first Sunday there, I was greeted warmly and made to feel a part, even though I came alone. I made some wonderful friends there.
However, that church went through some major upheaval and we were once again on the move to yet another church after only 3 years. Again, I was the "new kid on the block". Having to start over in a new class was hard. I am not a good "ice breaker". Now after I get to know you, I can talk your ear off, but at first it is so awkward for me. Again, I found myself struggling to fit in...to really feel like I belonged.
But.....you know....God uses all kinds of things to move us out of our comfort zones!! We did a campaign in our church shortly after I arrived called "Walk Across the Room". Its purpose was to spur people to reach out to the lost by walking across the room and starting a conversation, building a relationship and sharing Christ in a low key, non-threatening way. But, it spoke to me in quite a different way. In fact, so much so that I cannot get that phrase out of my head. God began to say to me, "If you're going to get to know people, YOU are going to have to walk across the room and meet them. They are not going to come to you!" I could either get up and make the effort myself or I could sit there and bemoan the fact that I was on the "fringe".
One of the greatest examples of this I have seen has been in our own neighborhood...not in a church setting. We had a new couple to move into our neighborhood about 2 years ago. We only have two streets in our neighborhood, joined together by a short side street. This couple lived on the corner of the main street and the side street.
They had just moved in when I walked one day. I saw the man in the yard. He was dressed in baggy pants, bright red suspenders, his shirt sleeves were rolled up and he had on a baseball cap....quite a colorful character to say the least. As I rounded the corner, he threw up his hand and shouted, "Howdy!! I'm yore new neighbor!" with as country a drawl as you have ever heard! I waved back and said "Welcome to the neighborhood!" and kept walking. Every day I walked, he was in that yard. And every day, he shouted out a greeting. One day he warned me I was going to get wet because it was supposed to rain. I told him I thought I could make it before it got to us. He told me he had an umbrella if I needed it. And doggone if he wasn't right! Before I hardly got down the next street, here came the rain. I quickly turned around and headed back home. There he was, standing in his driveway with the umbrella, waiting for me!
That man "walked across the room" to us, his new neighbors. He did not wait for us to come to him. He made friends with almost everyone in that neighborhood...you couldn't help but like him. There were always neighbors on his front porch or out under the tree. He touched so many, that when he passed away this spring, the family was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support from our neighborhood families. God used him to make a real point to me.
I was used to going into a new situation and sitting there waiting for someone to come to me, to speak to me, to reach out to me and make me feel welcome. Often I was disappointed. God is opening my eyes to SEE others who are on the fringe, who feel exactly the same way. He is moving ME to reach out to them BECAUSE I KNOW HOW THEY FEEL!
I'd like to tell you it's easy, but it's not. It's extremely hard for me. But He is moving me and as I respond, He is giving me a heart for those on the fringe and He is blessing me each time I reach out to them. Yes, I'm one of those "fringe people", but so was Jesus. He gave us the ultimate example of "walking across the room"! So I guess I'm in pretty good company.
11 hours ago