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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

Square Peg, Round Hole, & the Kingdom

I've always been a bit of a square peg in a world often full of round holes. I approach topics from a unique perspective, get excited about things most people don't, and I laugh at my own jokes. In fact, I'm often the only one laughing. 

I move a lot and have attended a wide variety of churches. To me, this has been a blessing. When I enter a new church, I honestly know that I am coming into my own house and joining my own family. These strangers are just family I haven't met yet. If I have nothing in common with my brothers and sisters, I enter a church with the attitude that I am offering them a look at a part of the family they often don't see. It's a privilege for me to be myself and show another facet of Christ, another glimpse of the Kingdom. 

For many of us, this is something to aspire to. For others, it's something to avoid. For still others, it requires enormous courage.  

I can't say I've been treated well at every church I've attended. I've been accosted because I've taught evolution (I'm an Anthropologist from Texas), heard long diatribes from male clergy about the evils of women priests (I'm female and preach), and railed at for interrupting a Cursillo gathering in a church library (I was their youth minister gathering Bibles for the kids). 

The woman in the last incident stated clearly what other situations seemed to imply. "Get out. You don't belong here," she cried as she physically pushed me out the door.

Ah, but that's where she was wrong. I do. Belong, that is. So do you. I may not be welcome, but I do belong. So do you. Even those who are star-shaped pegs, rectangle-shaped pegs, or square pegs with slightly rounded edges. All belong in the Kingdom. 

In other areas of life, we may walk away from places we don't fit. We find situations that don't require us to think certain thoughts or dress a particular way or change things we can't change. 

But the church is different. Why? Because of Jesus. Because Jesus showed us a Kingdom in which we all belong. Because Jesus lived and died as a square peg. 

When we find ourselves ill-fitted in a congregation, we don't always have to strive—sometimes being ourselves and loving like Jesus is enough. Square peg and all. It doesn't always work, but letting Jesus change hearts works better than if we try to change minds. When it doesn't work... well, changing congregations is not the worst thing we can do. It keeps us in the Body of Christ. Keeps us loving and forgiving.  

Here's the thing: 

  • Sometimes people are at their worst in groups. The Kingdom is not like that. 

  • Most of the time, the round holes and round pegs are an illusion. The Kingdom is full of all kinds of shapes. 

So, go ahead and be a square peg. Work on your boundaries. Look to Jesus, when in doubt. He had outstanding boundaries. And if things get painful, take care of yourself. Take a step back, have a conversation, request some mediation, or do whatever you need to heal.

Why am I bringing this up in a blog about shrinking mainline churches? Because we're shrinking. 

When congregations shrink, we get to know each other more intimately. When we shrink, we tend to lose diversity. It's stressful to face decreasing numbers and stressful to grow closer to so many square pegs. Stress doesn't help any of us behave better. Conflicts can become commonplace.  

But the pandemic may help. How?

The pandemic has removed some church walls. We can see inside other churches a bit more than we used to. And this is wonderful. We can see how different we are and how similar.

The pandemic has forced us to speak our faith in public on social media and in the news. Everywhere we turn, "the media" are talking about how churches are managing the pandemic. Friends, we could never have paid for this kind of publicity!  

The pandemic has brought to the front of all our minds and conversations the need for congregational development. Rather than bemoaning the trend of shrinking congregations, we're excited about what we can do about it.  

And, finally, the pandemic has allowed us to see how many Christians are all around us. Rather than walking around thinking we're all square pegs in a secular society just because we're Christians, we can see how alive and vibrant and numerous we are. Online and everywhere. 

Hello, fellow square pegs! Greetings in the name of Christ! 

We are all weird, and none of us fit perfectly. When we gather again, as I know we will, let me be the first to assure you that I'm happy you are my brother and sister in Christ, no matter what shape your peg is. I have faith you will do the same.  

What kind of peg are you? Comment below!


Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

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