I never knew where to sit. Every lunch period of every day of every year at school. I was liked by others, I think, or maybe more so tolerated. I’ll never know fully I suppose. All I remember is peering into the large cafeteria in the middle of the entrance with its heavy doors and push bars wondering and posing the internal question…”where do I sit?”
I was never hated in school, that I know of, but it doesn’t seem like I was much liked either. No enemy but no real friends. Maybe others felt ambivalence towards me. The one friend I did know in school never had the same lunch period as me but I knew his other friends wouldn’t have me at their table. So I either sat at the “nerd” table or the table my other friend from Lebanon sat at. Moe was his name. He was the only one who knew me there. I mean it was fine sitting there eating my paper bag lunch next to those who paid using a paper ticket while across the divide there was those eating the delectable round personal pizzas and sub-par cheesesteaks with french fries dipped in the ever so orange-colored ketchup & mayo combo.
It was awkward now knowing where to sit. Not sure if I “felt” rejected though now I know I was. You see, outright rejection is bad but there’s a certain sting when rejected not outrightly but knowing no one cared about you. Cared enough to offer the vacant stool or bench space next to them. I mean it’s school. Ignorant, self-absorption laced with a snub. Should I have expected better? Meh.
But it carried into every day life. Even before public school, when I was homeschooled, there was a girl who I played soccer with in the local community league. We also went to the same soccer camp during the summer…we even carpooled together. Then it was 8th grade and I was put in public school and she went to the same school and guess what…I was met with ambivalence. Not outright rejection but the subtle nagging rejection that creeps up to you when you were looking the other way. I’m pretty sure I remember that hurting.
Even today in adulthood where you’d think things would be different. But it’s not. Now I must confess I’m very introverted so I usually don’t go out of my way either to offer others friendship or simply the emptiness besides me. Maybe the emptiness beside me was from the emptiness inside me? I recall oftentimes where maybe a church gathering occurred or there were open seating for a group discussion or a potluck meal and I would usually sit at an empty circle. Secretly waiting inside me to see if anyone wanted to sit with me and sometime people did but usually they stuck with who they knew and sat with them. I remember the one time I did similar and the pastor of the church saw how no one sat at my table and mentioned it to me. He wasn’t too happy about how it went down.
But one day at a men’s retreat something happened…and is still happening. During a quiet time I saw myself in my mind’s eye in the entry way of my high school cafeteria carrying the baggage which was my question, “Who can I sit with?” With those heavy doors propped open and a full cafeteria I saw a wave. The kind of wave you make when you are picking someone out of the crowd to let them know where you are. The kind of wave that beckons. The kind of wave that shouts, “Hey I’m over here!” meaning I want you here too. That’s the kind of wave I saw. So I saw it and walked over, passing the ambivalence. Passing the lack of turned head. Passed the lack of friendship. Passed the rejection. Passed the lack of everything everyone in school wanted. And into a place prepared for me. An empty space. An empty space not vacant for anyone but reserved for a someone. A place at the head of the table. A place of honor. A place where everyone who is there knows you. And who waved me over? None other than Jesus. And what He told me, broke me.
He said, “You’ll always have a place at my table.”
Copyright by Jordan Gresczyk 5/7/2018