I slide into the booth at Kneaders opposite Salena, excited to chat with this woman I recently met but feel like I’ve known for years. Over her fruit tart and my breakfast croissant, she and I meander down a long road of conversation, lingering here and there at points of interest.
She is a former army wife, and I am a former air force wife. As we travel through our conversation, we stop and ask each other this question:
Did you ever live in a place where you struggled to fit in?
While the locations mentioned differed, we both experienced what it was like to be placed in a community that didn’t fit well. Although folks were kind, they weren’t necessarily receptive to our presence. For a long time, we were on the outside looking in, invited to the party but not really welcomed through the front door.
For you, maybe it was something else that brings this awareness to you. Maybe you attended that conference, chock-full of people who do what you do, except in your mind they all do it better. Maybe you changed churches, and it’s taking endless months to feel like you fit in with that community group. Or perhaps you’re the new girl at the new job, and you haven’t figured out how to connect with your co-workers. Maybe your appearance or life experiences differ from those around you to such a degree you feel the widest chasm between you and everyone else.
Whatever it is, it’s like all those around you know the hilarious inside joke, and you’re expelling quite a bit of effort not to look like you don’t. It’s really no fun at all.
When I’m on the outside looking in, I want to do all kinds of things to fix the problem. I want to wave my arms wildly and get noticed. I want to jostle my way into the front of the crowd. Or I want to go the opposite direction and move completely inward, believing I’m too small to count. Disheartened by the rejection I’ve experienced and paralyzed by the fear that tells me I’m not important, I just want to stay holed up within my four walls. Either way, I’m anxious to do something that will bandage up my hurting heart.
But what if there’s a third option that doesn’t go to one extreme or the other? What if that option is a back roads way to belonging that finds us not doing, but simply remaining and relaxing?
Remaining in Christ’s unabashed love for us.
Remaining still and receiving what the Lord wants to give us right now.
Remaining calm and refusing to feel anxious about our abilities or worth.
Relaxing into the people and places God has us today.
Relaxing in our own spirit as we lift up the spirits of others who need encouragement.
Because here’s the truth, dear ones: You don’t have to try to move inside because you were never out.
You are in.
You are in.
You are in.
That’s what’s so compelling about the Gospel: it’s for all and all are in. Sometimes it’s easier for me to believe Jesus came for all than to believe He came for the singular me. But He did. He came for me, so I am all the way in.
And so are you.
Of course, the Lord desires for you to be in robust, life-giving community, and He wants that community to affirm and love you like Jesus with skin. We absolutely need places of connection within our culture of disconnection. But He already has you in the palm of His hand, in the heart of His care. If this is true, isn’t it also true He is invested in your best interest and will not leave you out in the dark?
So the next time you and I are tempted to stand tip-toed on the outside straining for a way to get inside, let’s refuse to grasp for desperate answers, elbow our way into a prime location, or sink into “I’m a big, dumb loser” despair.
Let’s relax and look into what God is doing for us today. Let’s remain in the knowledge that in its truest form, belonging is not a state of our circumstances but a state of our souls.
Yes, there’s room at the table God picks for each of us. As we wait to expand our sense of belonging, let’s remain hopeful that even now He moves us in the direction of our best.
Because we are His and we belong.
Belonging is not a state of our circumstances but a state of our souls. -@Kristen_Strong: Click To Tweet