April 21, 2019

Escaping the Wilderness: Part III – A square peg in a round hole

Suddenly alone, in an old familiar place.
As I look around, all I see are the new faces.
Scared of reaching out
Filled with fear and doubt
I was never good at making friends
Sometimes it’s like trying to mend
The edges of a frayed piece of cloth
I don’t think that I fit in.
Peter Heath – 1984

In my last post, I mentioned how three years ago I entered the wilderness once again.

I used the phrase “once again” because it seems like the wilderness is a place where I find myself more often than not.

Looking back over my fifty-five years of walking this earth (okay, 54, because I didn’t walk for my first year), I counted the number of years where I have felt at home in a church. The answer…

Five.

That’s it. Just five short years of feeling that I belonged.

Don’t get me wrong. For the past 30 years I have been very participatory, as an Elder, small group leader, Sunday School Teacher, Worship leader, Pastoral search committee member, or leading the college group. In most of those places though, I have felt like a square peg in a round hole.

There have been a number of reasons for this: Geography, Personalities, World Views, Theology, Philosophies.

As I have moved from church to church, there has always been some reason why this new one hasn’t been the right one. I think that is why at seminary so many of us were interested in Church planting. “If we started a church that did A, B, and C, wouldn’t it be wonderful!”

Last Friday, Burro pinned the tail on his proverbial half-sibling when he commented:

Particularly after the Reformation, the notion that correct doctrine would produce a correct Church gained increasing acceptance. Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Restoration, Oxford Movement, Latter Rain Move of God, the endless forays towards some new, imagined excellence, were the founding ideology of the various modern ecclesiologies.

This I think has been a large part of my problem: My desire to belong, to have people that I could relate to, talk to, dream with, has resulted in me chasing an ever elusive shadow, that seems just about visible beyond the next river bend.

Only it doesn’t exist at all.

I just finished watching Season One of “Alone” on the History Channel. Ten individuals get dropped off at ten different spots in the wilderness. Whoever lasts longest wins $500,000. Season one lasted 56 days. It is hard to thrive in the wilderness. But those who said “This is where I am, and I am going to make the best of it” were those who made it furthest. Spoiler alert – we could tell from about episode two who the finalists were going to be.

A large part of escaping the wilderness for me was realizing that what I was chasing was just a mirage. If you find a fresh source of water, put up a decent shelter, find a good source of food, and keep warm and dry, all of a sudden the wilderness doesn’t seem so much like wilderness anymore.

And that’s what I am trying to do with Church. It may not be perfect, but if I start making myself at home, then maybe it will start to feel like home.

As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. The question is, can this particular wilderness ever be made into a home, or can it only be something that is endured? And it the prize for enduring the longest isn’t 500,000, what is it?

  2. I think the biggest problem nowadays, at least for us post-evangelicals, isn’t so much finding a church with right doctrine as much as one with right *practice*. There are tons of churches out there that have all the doctrinal ducks in a row on paper, yet are so enmeshed in the toxic evangelical culture as ro be totally unwelcome to us.

    • How would you personally define some of the essential elements of right practice? I wonder if there is a consensus among iMonkers about what right practice would entail, or if our ideas about what it is are as wildly different as our modern personalities. I know that, in reference to the quote from Mule included in the post, his idea of right practice is Eastern Orthodoxy, but that option is not possible or attractive enough for some of us.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > I wonder if there is a consensus among iMonkers about what right practice

        Hmmm, doubtful.

        The change for me is that I ask much less of the church. The church has A role but the church as THE community in the modern world doesn’t make much sense. The church has played that role for people; but really in pretty isolated and brief instances [which we American-Norman-Rockwell-transform into a Normal-That-Never-Was].

        In my various communities I work on ignoring the parts which aren’t for me [and it is fine for things not to be for me] and the, fewer, parts I think are noise. This is much different than the enduring I practiced before; and a part of that is to have community elsewhere. There is always a bit of ugly everywhere you go.

        • Right practice? A Church where ‘respect’ for others is the norm would be a good start.

          Without a culture of respecting persons, you can end up with all kinds of manipulation and abuse, sure.

          And not just ‘respect’ for the members of the Church, but a real teaching that ‘respect’ is due to all human persons, to animal life, and to the environment itself as a part of God’s Creation

          . . . . . . and that includes respect for those of other faiths, of immigrants, of people with gender issues, of those in treatment or recovery from addictions . . . . of people on the margins of our society, the poor for whom now it is so popular among some toxic fundamentalist/political groups to hold in contempt.

          • Yes. This.

          • –> “Right practice? A Church where ‘respect’ for others is the norm would be a good start.”

            Oh, yes! That’s a great line, Christiane!

            I’m reading a John Ortberg book in which he has this line (speaking about Jesus’ day, but probably applicable to now):
            “This was the great irony of his day: The ‘righteous’ were more damaged by their righteousness than the sinners were by their sin.”

            I think that’s a “right” practice, too: a recognition that “righteousness” is NOT a “right practice,” that “righteousness” is damaging to self and others, even above and beyond the “sin” that the righteous are so quickly to point out in others.

            I tend to shy away from righteous people these days, and even shy away from “righteous” practices. Just give me Jesus.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              “righteous” linguistically is rooting in the same etymology as “just” or “justice”.

              So often we take/use “righteous” to mean morally precise, which is not at all equivalent to Just.

            • Hello Rick Ro.

              loved this line: ““This was the great irony of his day: The ‘righteous’ were more damaged by their righteousness than the sinners were by their sin.”

              a person can have Christian humility before the Lord OR be ‘self-righteous’ but not both at the same time, no 🙂

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > A Church where ‘respect’ for others is the norm would be a good start.

            It is sad that my reaction to this was an audible snort.

            “Respect” from American Christian Leaders? I feel that is bar far too high for the current period.

            I am happy when there is passive indifference.

            • I think about a Church where the minister helps recovering addicts and people who are transitioning out of prisons . . . . and there I can imagine that for all their difficulties and baggage, these people are seen by that minister as infinitely precious to Our Lord. . . . . .

              I think at the root of that kind of ‘respect’ is an understanding that we humans are all of us humbly made from the same elements of the Earth; and we, all of us, have our life breathed into us by God

              Such a minister probably ‘gets’ that scene in the Temple where the publican who prays ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner’ is looked on with favor by God for his humility;
              while God gives no credit to the preening pharisee who is openly so ‘self-righteous’ . . . . . only one walked away from the Temple ‘justified’ by God, not both

              • No organization that doesn’t strive to establish and maintain respect for others can be a hospitable or even marginally safe place to be. If respect is not even a possible practice to work toward, then the words attributed to Christ in the gospels are wrong, and the gates of hell have prevailed against the Church.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          “the church as THE community in the modern world doesn’t make much sense. The church has played that role for people; but really in pretty isolated and brief instances [which we American-Norman-Rockwell-transform into a Normal-That-Never-Was].”

          I think there was some truth to the church as the community in farming areas before automobiles and television. You were probably performing hard physical labor six days out of seven, at least for significant parts of the year, and you went to church on the other day. So it was your social life simply due to absence of other opportunities. But move into town–and I’m talking small towns here–and the opportunities open up. The church was not entirely happy about that, and regarded with varying suspicion to outright hostility the social institutions it regarded as competitors.

          As is so often the case, we look back with rose-colored nostalgia at the good parts of church-as-community, while forgetting that people looked elsewhere pretty much whenever they had the chance.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            “””The church was not entirely happy about that, and regarded with varying suspicion to outright hostility the social institutions it regarded as competitors.”””

            Oh, there was no selfish motivation at all when those preachers sent up screeds against the evils of The Big Bad City. 🙂

            “””As is so often the case, we look back with rose-colored nostalgia at the good parts of church-as-community, while forgetting that people looked elsewhere pretty much whenever they had the chance.”””

            Yep.

  3. Home is where the heart is. I attend church services to satisfy my need to worship God in a corporate setting with other believers. The differences, and there are many, I have with some aspects of how the worship service is conducted or personalities involved I just abide and live with. Whatever works for you if there is a rational, heartfelt and sincere belief that your church is following the Word.

    I have been in many organizations where I was a member because I agreed in practice with about 70 to 80 percent with what they professed. Of course , my perspective is that the relationship to Christ is a personal one and the gatekeeper is not a earthy entity. Within reason , unless it is a cult I could attend any church as long as they professed, preached and proclaimed John 3.16.

    After many years I treat church as my wife. I do not agree with her at times but I go with the flow. However she is lucky as she has to agree with me 100 percent as I am always correct, her life is much more simpler.

    I am rambling but I think I agree with M.Bell home is where the heart is and we are where we are. There are many here who go to churches I would not seek to join but I know they find what they need there and in the end that is Jesus. That is great, that is evident and we should at some point accept that M. Bell is alluding to. Again I am usually tone deaf, so if I have missed the thrust of the article, it is my fault not the article.

    My good , great neighbor is a Seventh Day Adventist, I do not agree with many or their teaching however for him it works, it is his “home”. That produces a “good” family that produces good results that live their faith and add to the goodness of God’s world. He is happy , at peace and like my hero Popeye accepts the fact that he is what he is.

    When it comes to organized groups either you change or the group changes . Sometimes we search like the Wizard of Oz guys for what we already have but we just do not realize it.

    Of course, I say this as my wife gave me a Wizard of Oz music box that plays “if I Only Had a Brain”, I guess she thought I really liked the song and there is no place like home.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I have been in many organizations where I was a member because I agreed in
      > practice with about 70 to 80 percent with what they professed

      Yep, an 80% is a pretty high mark. At this point in my life I am more allergic to Aggression [which seems concomitant with Fundamentalism] than I am with Disagreement.

      • Adam, there seems to be tremendous aggression towards Christine Blasey Ford among fundamentalist/Dominionist leaders like Franklin Graham. The comments are outrageous but not surprising to me because of the ‘source’ . . . . I keep wondering if these people even know how they appear to the world that doesn’t hold women in contempt in the same thoughtless way?

        • rhymeswithplague says:

          Christiane, I don’t think of Franklin Graham as fundamentalist/Dominionist. Nor do I think he holds women in contempt. For example, his sister, Christian speaker Anne Graham Lotz, is a woman. And it isn’t just men who oppose Christine Blasey Ford. Yesterday a group of 65 women came out in support of Brett Kavanaugh.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            That 65 women thing was a bit of a mystery, yes? 65 Signat6within hours of the revelations, in a very broadly worded letter that does not specifically mention the allegations. And all except 2 of the women refused to speak to the media afterwards. All the appearances of a canned response by people who knew of the allegations.

            Meanwhile, a later letter signed by over 200 alumni supports Ford.

          • Franklin has definitely crossed into fundamentalist territory. Check out his last few pronouncements on any number of topics.

          • I wonder what kind of women support Kavanaugh? Perhaps the kind who think it’s okay to deprive the Democrats of 90% of the documents they needed to study his work background in order to do their due diligence of advise and consent?

            Or maybe they were the kind of women who think that if we are going to have a justice on the Supreme Court for the next thirty or forty years, it’s perfectly okay not to have the FBI inspect an incident where a candidate is accused of attempted rape ?

            I’m sure such women exist. I don’t doubt it. Same as there were women who after everything came out about Trump’s shenanigans concerning women, still claimed ‘it doesn’t matter’. (???????) But on the nation’s highest Court, where terms are life-long in some cases, it does matter and if we have in consideration one Brett Kavanaughty who is not being properly examined for political reasons, we have a serious case of the failure of the Senate to be able to do one of its most important duties.

            The rule of law must not mean too much to women who accept the bullying of Dr. Ford as Kavanaugh seems to accept it . . . . he COULD speak up and demand documents needed to be turned over to the senators for study . . . . he COULD speak up and demand to have his name cleared through an FBI investigation of the new charges, but he does not, and in the light of his lack of stepping up to do what is clearly the right thing to do, he has already proven to be less than honorable in the face of such charges.

            Most of the women I know are devoted to the idea of the Supreme Court being independent. And most of these women are also knowledgeable about the duties of the Senate in examining a candidate for the Supreme Court and this, of course, involves the senators having access to ALL related materials and documents AND to any needed reports from independent investigators (the FBI is the usual go-to in such cases).

            some thoughts

  4. In the OT histories the “company of prophets” (2 Kings 2, etc.) are a semi-nomadic community of believers united by a common prophetic vision. They apparently live full-time in the wilderness, both literally and figuratively. The church that has been home to me for longer than any other is essentially that – an entire community of wilderness-dwellers.

    It’s not always an easy place to be – nothing is ever completely certain or stable, and the character of the community keeps shifting as people come and go. But the advantage of a church that’s built in the wilderness is that we don’t have the tendency to try to pull people back and keep them from exploring their own wilderness, nor does the community have the self-protective desire to cut someone off if they come back in from the wilderness carrying something new that doesn’t fit with how others experience God.

  5. 72/never. Was not church when my name was placed in the book of life. And the beginning of that relationship with Jesus has made all the difference in my marriage, family, work…..who can’t say he actually is the way, truth, life? You know there are dark nights. St. John of the Cross was placed in a cell that was actually a cistern for urine. Bottom line is learning to live not just by habit, but in the newness. That goes for church, school, family, work, club, gang or any group you’re a part. And if you’re living that life you are the square peg in that group. The group as home is a mirage. It’s harder to shake that reality in a biological family than in a church family. We’re the square peg because our home is above. The truth of that does not make you so heavenly minded your no earthly good. If your not habitual as to church or other groups, but living in newness…. then you can be a reflection of light to one or more. Your refreshing. There was no one in the history of this planet that is more refreshing than Jesus the Christ.

  6. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “”” “This is where I am, and I am going to make the best of it” were those who made it furthest. Spoiler alert – we could tell from about episode two who the finalists were going to be.”””

    I have never seen the TV show, but this is So Very True. And in every circle of life.

    You can only go forward from where you are.

  7. Samuel Conner says:

    I see two problems/issues. The first is “in here” in terms of what I am willing to put up with in terms of a specific group’s non-negotiables. In recent years, I’ve become much more patient and forbearing as I have questioned the theological paradigm that I had for decades assumed was valid. Having come to the opinion that I was mistaken (on the specific question of the meaning of “wrath” — I now suspect that this is principally “under the sun”, but that has significant “knock-on” effects in the rest of any system), I’m reluctant to rush to a new dogmatic system. This has the perhaps paradoxical effect of making me more tolerant of what I formerly would have considered to be doctrinal “error.” Provided that the leaders are not abusive and the people are kind to one another, I could probably “put up” with any group that “confesses Christ as Lord and believes that God raised Him from the dead.”

    But there is also a 2nd problem/issue, the one “out there.” My perception is that groups that “confess Christ as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead” tend, regardless of the details of their distinctives, to embrace the meta-dogma that purity of doctrine is a sine qua non of a God-honoring church. And my stance of skepticism of some widespread present-day Evangelical assumptions and my curiosity about possible alternatives means that to affiliate with such a group I would need to put the “doctrinal conformity” mask back on and conceal my thinking, both to protect myself from the hostility of the group and to avoid disrupting the group’s “like-mindedness.”

    Solitude in a wilderness is preferable to that, IMO.

    I’m open to suggestions.

    • Michael Bell says:

      This is where I live. Both paragraphs (though the details may differ.) I would be interested in hearing what others have to say about this, as this will be my focus next Friday.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Yep, familiar ground.

        “”””Provided that the leaders are not abusive and the people are kind to one another, I could probably “put up”””

        Yes; I would go so far as to say, about many of these issues, that I no longer even have much interest in the “alternatives”. After 2,000+ years is someone going to finally, now, going to figure out some of these doctrinal issues? That seems unlikely. If, after centuries, the answers all still kinda suck: maybe the problem is the questions? But we are so heavily invested in those questions; much of religious discussion sounds like an enormous intellectual Sunk Cost fallacy.

        “””to affiliate with such a group I would need to put the “doctrinal conformity” mask back on and conceal my thinking”””

        This. I will keep my religious affiliations loose and unvested, at least for now.

    • I remember Pope John Paul II told Billy Graham “we are brothers” based just on the one shared belief in Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead.

    • “…groups that “confess Christ as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead” tend, regardless of the details of their distinctives, to embrace the meta-dogma that purity of doctrine is a sine qua non of a God-honoring church. And my stance of skepticism of some widespread present-day Evangelical assumptions and my curiosity about possible alternatives means that to affiliate with such a group I would need to put the “doctrinal conformity” mask back on and conceal my thinking, both to protect myself from the hostility of the group and to avoid disrupting the group’s “like-mindedness.”

      This. A thousand times this. I have had my salvation questioned by other church members for not believing in young earth creationism. My son was told (by the pastor, no less!) that he would go to hell when he decided to join my Baptist church after attending and being baptized in the Christian church. I have been told that anyone who does not believe in a literal translation of the Bible and that it is “inerrant and infallible” is not believing in the “real God”. I could go on, but you get the idea.

      I have come to the place in my life where I am no longer willing to bear insults or rejection simply because I don’t march in lockstep with an official or unofficial statement of beliefs in a particular church. I am also not willing to cover up what I actually believe when I am asked. So for now, here I stand – in my own wilderness. And the plain fact is that my wilderness is actually a better place for me to grow in my faith than those churches who discourage independent thought.

      • I would add political views to this. I have been told that one cannot be a Christian and vote Democratic. Ever. This kind of thinking does bother me a very great deal. I am bothered likewise by, as you say Ruth, being told that you must believe in the young earth. Or that there really was a man named Jonah who actually was swallowed by a whale, or you cannot be a true Christian.
        I hope, someday, to find a church that learns from other faiths and respects their beliefs as opposed to trying to change them to join “our side” which seems to me makes Christianity a product in need of a marketing department. “Stop eating Triscuits and come over to the Ritz side of the universe!”

        I am reading a book called Christianity after Religion by Diana Butler Bass. Very enlightening and although I am only about half way through, I highly recommend it.

        • –> “I have been told that one cannot be a Christian and vote Democratic. Ever. This kind of thinking does bother me a very great deal. I am bothered likewise by, as you say Ruth, being told that you must believe in the young earth. Or that there really was a man named Jonah who actually was swallowed by a whale, or you cannot be a true Christian.”

          Exactly!

          And this is where I feel very fortunate, for within the church described here (need to vote Republican, need to believe YEC, need to believe the Bible is inerrant and literal) and which I attend, I’ve found a sub-church of believers who are okay with challenging and accepting those who DON’T view things exactly like this.

          It would be delightful if all you at iMonk could find a similar “church within the church.”

        • it is more the norm these days that people ask ‘how can someone support Trump and still be a Christian?’, but fear is a terrible task-master for those who cannot speak their own minds among their community or in their own families, so I think I’ve got some compassion for those who live in fear these days, instead of asking ‘how could they?’. I’ve had it explained to me in a way that revealed what it was that was feared, and I understand that some people are protecting others and cannot be their own persons. These are strange times.

    • There are plenty of mainline denominations and congregations that “confess Christ as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead” where no one, not clergy or laity, will inspect your personal theology for its orthodoxy, or hold you in disdain and see you as a pariah for straying from some kind of narrow doctrinal purity. The question is: are you willing to see the atmosphere of tolerance in such a denomination or congregation as compatible with real commitment to confession of Christ as Lord whom God raised from the dead, or would you reject it on the grounds that it does not meet your own standard of doctrinal purity?

      • Absolutely, I would accept and worship with fellow Christians who do not have the same personal theological stances as I do. I have no issue with another believer’s faith journey leading them to a different position than mine on secondary and tertiary matters. If they have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, that is the only thing that I consider crucial.

        However, there is the issue of those of us who live in small towns and rural areas. Even the mainline denominations here are filled with very conservative congregants who do not encourage independent study and thinking. Our local UMC congregation, Lutheran (MO Synod) and Christian (Disciples of Christ) are basically as rigid in their orthodoxy as the Southern Baptist/Independent Baptist churches. We have no Episcopal, Anglican, CBF, or ABC churches locally.

        And Rick Ro., I would be delighted to find a church home that has your “church within a church”. But unfortunately in my small town even if there are any others who believe as I do on certain secondary matters – they are afraid to say anything due to the way they have seen others treated when it is discovered that they are outside the rigid orthodoxy established by the members of that church.

        • I understand your point about small towns and rural areas. It seems to me that, in such circumstances, it is better to go it alone than to participate in congregational life under the continual doctrinal scrutiny and judgment of your fellow congregants. It’s unfortunate.

    • @Samuel Connor —

      I’m open to suggestions.

      Check out some some parishes/congregations in a few mainline denominations.

      • Samuel Conner says:

        Yes, thank you. That thought has occurred to me. I’m proceeding very slowly as the local mainlines are all small and declining, and I’m reluctant to affiliate and then, after an interval, disaffiliate, which might be deeply discouraging to a group that is already in trouble. For that reason I most recently stuck with a failing group for 6 years past the time I knew I didn’t “fit in”. It was a useful learning experience, though.

  8. I think this is intentional on God’s part. His people, as someone mentioned, wandered/lived in wilderness and I think in some respects still do.

    I believe we are to have a content discontent until creation is renewed.

    We are to be together in community here, and yet where does it say we have to agree on everything?

    The gospel is the gospel is the gospel. By any other name, it’s the gospel. But how that is theologically and practically believed and lived out will look different in different cultures, countries, and churches. (Nope, the alliteration is not intentional).

    We should be connected with those who agree and disagree with us…iron sharpens iron. When I think I have it all figured out….then…it’s apparent I don’t. Look at all the diverse theologies throughput church history. And it continues.

    Not sayin’ it’s easy….

  9. Good post and comments. There’s an underlying cynicism here that makes me sad. Sad, because it sounds like several people here at iMonk have never experienced the joy of being in a group of like-minded believers. I’m a cynic, too, so that’s not meant as a dig at anyone; but it does make me sad.

    My personal experience is that I have a “church” family of which I’m kinda like a young adult, flitting in and out, dropping in on the family but not really engaged because we just don’t see things eye-to-eye.

    Then I have a family WITHIN that family in which I feel like I belong. This is the group of people WITHIN the church in which we appear to be like-minded, able to share at a deeper level the things that we believe, without fear of retribution.

    I’m wondering if EVERY church doesn’t have a bit of a “church within a church,” comprising of individuals who are like-minded, and to which there might be a greater sense of “belonging”.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > There’s an underlying cynicism here that makes me sad

      Same. And I share that cynicism.

    • If people ever do wander into a Church where they feel they belong, I’m betting on it that it will have some element of nurturing and sheltering and healing . . . . like that word ‘sanctuary’, it will have something in it of blessing that is offered without thought of ‘deserving’ and without thought of ‘conforming’, but just because it is so needed.

  10. Small point: Mule was quoting part of Fr Stephen Freeman’s post “Orthodoxy Represents Our Original Incompetency” – a good read when I’m perplexed with the “state of the church”.

    Nope, it’s not doctrinal purity that is the sine qua non of the Church; for me it has always been the expression of worship. That’s why I eventually spiraled back to a Liturgical Church. Doctrine ended up being very dry all by itself, and I was simply weary of all the fighting over doctrine – especially doctrinal points that didn’t even arise until the Reformation and following.

    As far as praxis goes, I take the words of Jesus, who assumes that we will do these things:
    “When you fast…” (realizing that fasting is not about twisting God’s arm to get him to do what you want, and also not about food);
    “When you pray…” (I find that the prayers of holy people – St Basil, St Isaac of Nineveh, others – help me best express my own deepest desires toward God);
    “When you give alms….” (and of course, that’s not strictly about money – also time, hospitality, general sacrificial care for others)

    with the words of Fr Stephen:
    “On the Cross, Jesus’ only regard was for his mother, his disciples, the guy next to him and his Father. He is the Compass of our lives, pointing steadily to the only things that matter. Love. Pray. Share your stuff. Be kind. Forgive your enemies. This is what matters.”

    It’s not really all that complicated. It only took me +50 years to begin to figure that out….

    Dana

  11. You captured the thoughts of many of us well. I am calling my present church, my last church. It is because it was about the best-organized church I could imagine, but has come up wanting. I loved it until I (and I had the feeling this would happen) became an elder. Now, I watch the sausage-making week after week. So much politics and personality disputes, which I had never seen before. So, if I ever leave this church, I will have to become a free-lance Christian, looking for fellowship and “spurring one another on” in places like this, good books, and great friends in a one-to-one relationship. I have felt like the square peg for a long time.