We were living at my grandmother’s house; my father’s mother. I was 5, and plenty had already happened to me.
Someone rented this movie called Hook, probably my dad. My parents both had night shifts at Anthony’s pizza. I don’t remember my Grandma Shirley building me a sheet tent any other time, but she did on this night. I laid on my stomach, disappearing into that magical place that sheet tents provide for a kid. There were chocolate chip cookies and a movie I’d never heard of being put on.
Peter Panning was old; grumpy and boring, and completely disconnected. But then Julia Roberts entered the scene, and my heart began to drift into another world, as she led Peter and myself past the clock, through the clouds and into the morning light.
I’ll probably never forget that night.
I loved Disney’s version of Peter Pan, but Hook… it made this fantasy feel more tangible. More real. Something I could achieve, at least in my heart. The sad thing I missed as a child was that Hook was a story of family reconciliation. It encouraged coming back to reality, not leaving it.
But I wanted to leave.
A few weeks ago, several people (including my husband) messaged me within a few hours of each other telling me to listen to this song called Lost Boy by Ruth B. I’m not sure why, but I ignored the first several suggestions. But after the 4th person asked me if I had listened to it, I caved. I laid down on my bed with ear buds, which is unusual for me to do when listening to a suggested song. But there was a prickle inside me to really hear it. It started, and I don’t think I even got through the first chorus and I was already sobbing.
“I am a lost boy from Neverland, usually hanging out with Peter Pan and when we’re bored we play in the woods, always on the run from Captain Hook. “Run, run, lost boy, ” they say to me. Away from all of reality.”
Someone wrote a song about me.
How did she know? How could she have known what happened in my heart all of those years ago in that sheet tent?
Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Wendy Darling, even Captain Hook, you are my perfect story book…
I felt out of place as a child. It’s difficult to describe, but it was like I was living and watching the world happen around me like it was a sequence of images that I wasn’t a part of, but could stick my hand in and walk around. I felt weird and different, and often rejected. I became familiar with loneliness when I was 3. I remember feeling it in my loft- yes, I had a loft, with stairs that led up to it and everything. An extra room in our townhouse just for me, filled with stuffed animals and toys… and loneliness.
I love my siblings deeply, but having them only further solidified that distance and rejection I felt on a regular basis. My parents were just trying to survive, and no one ever seemed to know how to live well or fix all of the broken. Everyone was just surviving with painted smiles on their faces, and I saw it from the beginning. I remember realizing I needed this man called Jesus when I was 3, but even knowing he was there-ish, there wasn’t a clinging-to with Him, because I didn’t know how to even do that.
Along came Peter Pan. I remember closing my eyes late at night and imagining Tinker Bell pattering on my window until I let her in; flying above my head and sprinkling a sparkly fix that would lift me into the air and take me away.
…”As we soared above the town that never loved me, I realized I finally had a family, Soon enough we reached Neverland, peacefully my feet hit the sand and ever since that day…”
…it’s had a decent amount of my heart. You’ve heard me talk about Peter Pan over the years; it’s why so many people sent me the song saying “this reminds me so much of you!”
It wasn’t until I listened to it that I realized that it’s not a good thing that Ruth B’s song reminds you of me.
For a massive portion of my life on earth so far, I’ve allowed a fantasy to be my family. I’ve been in community with a fairy tale. As I type this, a sick feeling rises in my stomach and my skin feels awkward and tingly. My flesh is completely uncomfortable with sharing this with you because it wants to keep it to itself, like an invisible security blanket. I’ll walk outside, and participate with others, and laugh and cry and experience life… with my secret blanky.
Writing this is like leaving my blanky on the bed and stepping out into the world without it.
You know what just came to my mind as I typed that last sentence? Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about this.
In a Charlie Brown Christmas, after Charlie Brown gets that pathetic tree and everyone is pissed at him, he yells “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus proceeds to share the story of Jesus birth, and when he says, “and the angel said unto them, ‘fear not…'” he drops his blanket, and proceeds to tell the rest of the story. What a subtle yet massive example of the power Christ has over fear.
Even though I claim to be a child of God, I’ve still been holding onto my lost boy identity. I succumbed to it when I was 5 and I’m almost 30, and it’s still in there.
I can’t be both.
I’m not a lost boy.
I’m a marvel made from dirt by the hands of the Beginning and the End, the Creator of the universe, a universe that holds worlds much more magnificent than Neverland. I belong to the 3-in-1, which puts even the best of fantasies to shame and the thing science will never be able to explain.
You know why that song feels like someone figured out a way to get into my heart and then write a tune about how I feel?
Because everyone feels this way, at some point. I’m not special. We all walk around each other, lost boys with nerve endings on the outside, recoiling at the slightest blow of the wind. We have all felt weird and out of place and rejected.
It’s why stories like Peter Pan, Harry Potter, The Grinch, and many others are so wildly adored. They are stories of outcasts who finally find what they are looking for- a place to belong.
I’m coming to realize that so much of our reactions come out of that desperate place of wanting to be loved and accepted and known. That breaks my heart. IT BREAKS MY HEART THAT WE ARE THIS WAY. That someone, anyone, millions of people, right now in this moment, are feeling left out, abandoned, and forgotten.
The truth is, God wants YOU, and He welcomes you in, exactly the way you are, lost and all. He’s not gonna let you stay a lost boy though. If you walk towards Him, He’s going to spend the entirety of your life getting into that beat up heart of yours and pull all of the yuck out. All of those lies you’ve ever believed and all of the things you cling to. He wants you found and free, not lost. He’s gonna give you family that transcends earthly blood, and redeems all of the broken bits and pieces that have left you terrified of people and vulnerability. He’s gonna do it through celebrations, and sufferings, and conflict and reconciliation, and it’s all gonna produce a joy in you that can’t be explained. You’ll be known, and you’ll belong, and there won’t be anything anyone or you can do to change that.
You don’t have to be a lost boy, and I don’t have to be either.