I fingered the elaborate invitation to the college women's club annual luncheon somewhat hesitantly. Instinctively I knew it was an invitation into a world that was foreign to me and I had only received it as a courtesy because my husband was the a/v technician at the college and therefore a member of the college staff. The women who attended these events were "society" women and I knew it. The college had a high reputation. Many of its alumni were wealthy and even world-renowned. I did not belong among those people and yet I wanted to go to the luncheon. You see, I knew the keynote speaker.
The speaker was a man of high regard in the academic world. He had recently written a book that I had just finished reading. He had given the book to my husband as a thank you for doing the media work on a project. I had chatted with this professor on more than one occasion and was eager to hear him speak so I was torn. I was torn between wanting to attend the luncheon and not wanting to go because I knew I wouldn't fit in.
My husband didn't understand my conflict. I received an invitation so I should go. I mumbled that I had nothing to wear knowing that even if I bought something new it would have to be off the bargain-basement rack whereas these women... well... let's just say my hunch was right. I did not fit in but my desire to hear the speaker overruled my better judgement.
To this day, I do not know how it happened. A kind-hearted mathematics professor's wife saw me looking lost and struck up a conversation with me before we went into the dining room. She asked if I was sitting with anyone and when I said no, she kindly invited me to sit with her. I thanked her and relieved I followed her in and... oh no! To my absolute horror she led me to the central front table and I found myself seated at the same table as speaker's wife, the wife of the president of the college, the wife of the provost, etc. I found myself squirming in my cheap er... economy dress.
Don't get me wrong. Everyone was kind to me. They were very kind but as the conversation continued and questions were asked and answered it became apparent that I lived in a completely different world. Every single one of those women had been born to wealth whereas we lived from paycheck to paycheck. Their husbands were professors and executives whereas my husband was what is known as a "techie". Their husbands stood in front of audiences whereas mine made sure the audiences could hear them.
They were kind but their kindness could not hide the truth that I read in their eyes. They knew that I did not really "belong", even though I had an invitation.
I reminded myself of the real reason I was here. Even if I didn't "belong", my invitation gave me the "right" to be here and I had just as much right to attend the luncheon and presentation as anyone else at my table and I wasn't going to let my discomfort spoil it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation but I enjoyed what immediately followed it even more. During the presentation, "Dr. W." had noticed me at the table directly in front of him. As soon as it was over and ladies were moving forward to speak to him, he politely brushed passed them and raced to my side. He took my hand and said, "I am so glad to see you! I hope you enjoyed the presentation!" Then he spoke to the people who had gathered around us. He formally introduced me and informed them that my husband had worked on the multi-media presentation they had just seen and "I couldn't have done it without him."
Something changed in that moment. I was no longer the dowdy, ill-at-ease, out-of-place woman. Suddenly everyone wanted to get next to me and talk to me. My position had changed because I had been publicly recognized by the guest of honor.
That incident happened nearly 30 years ago but I still smile when I think about it. There are so many times when I feel small, insignificant, ill-at-ease, out-of-place or even unwanted. Then I remember who I am in Christ. I may not be "recognized" by the world but I am "recognized" by God and I am who He says I am and so are you.