When my family had lived in the Midwest for a year, and I was in a season of parenting three tiny humans, we attended a church full of beautifully kind and loving people. After some time, I finally began forming relationships with a few of the good folks there. One particular Sunday when my husband was out of town for work, I managed to navigate all three little ones into church and Sunday school, as well as remember to bring my dish of garlic mashed potatoes for the potluck picnic after the service.
I enjoyed the potluck immensely, downing long swigs of conversation with other grown-ups like I hadn’t had in a while (because I hadn’t). The kids and I gobbled up our buffet lunch of deliciousness, and not long after, my daughter needed to use the restroom. Once we took care of business and returned to the picnic area, I looked around to see my table empty. Scanning the lawn, I noticed all the remaining picnic-goers — many of them longtime members of our church — sitting in a big circle, all laughing and talking like only a day with warm sunshine and longtime relationships could encourage.
Clear as church bells, I remember staring at that circle of people while my kids ran in circles around me. I sighed and said, “What does one have to do to really feel like she belongs anyhow?” Soon afterward, I wrangled my kids into the minivan and headed home.
You may be thinking, Kristen, why didn’t you go up to that circle of people and ask if you could join them? I probably should’ve. Looking back on that now, I’m certain they would’ve welcomed me into the circle. But at the time, I remember seeing that cozy, connected group and realizing I didn’t share their history or stories. I believed that without a direct invite, inserting myself into their circle felt at best awkward and presumptuous and at worst like an intrusion.
What’s more, that circle of chairs told me I wasn’t really in like I thought.
In this circumstance, I can give myself grace and know that it was fine to head home. The kids needed a nap anyway. But in general, if I gave into those I-don’t-belong-here feelings every single time by packing up and leaving, I’d never get to a place of belonging with anyone anywhere.
When we struggle with a lack of belonging or believe it’s taking longer to find than it should, there are two courses of action we’re prone to take. The first one — regularly roving the crowded superhighway of connection — leaves us unfulfilled and exhausted. The second one — remaining locked up inside the protective walls of our homes — leaves us lonely and isolated. And I’m tired of traveling both these well-worn roads that only take me further away from a place of rest and real belonging.
So what is the alternative to these options?
It’s taking the back road way to belonging where we are seen less but sense our belonging more, where we don’t let pride push us into a look-at-me spotlight or let fear send us packing, where we explore the vast middle-area options, for there are as many back roads as people to travel them.
When I begin to feel that lonely ache in my heart and soul because of too little real connection, that’s my cue to take the scenic byways that encourage me to relax into the role God has for me today with those He’s placed around me.
Part of relaxing into the places you and I are looks like accepting that finding our back road to belonging may include a fair bit of wandering as we move from where we are to where we’d like to be. As Jesus traveled from town to town, He periodically took out-of-the-way roads that added miles to His journey. Sometimes He allowed delays that didn’t make a lick of sense in the moment. If this was Jesus’ way, then perhaps we need to be open to the idea that the same may be asked of us.
Yes, some of our wandering masquerades as setbacks, dead ends, and broken roads. The places we travel may confuse us more than comfort us, and the waiting may drive us plumb crazy. But as we move along, let us not despair that we don’t belong.
It’s more likely that we don’t belong yet.
No person is meant to be on the inside of every circle, but everyone is on the inside somewhere. God will make a way for you and I to belong where we are, and Jesus goes with us along the way.
With an understanding voice that will speak into your own circumstances, Kristen Strong walks beside you along the less traveled but more satisfying way – the back road way – to belonging: remaining in Christ and relaxing into the unique role God has for you. Along the way, you will learn simple, doable actions that not only will help you feel and know that you belong but will welcome others in as well. Enjoy the slower, scenic route with Kristen and learn how to create an environment of connection within our culture of disconnection.
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God will make a way for you and I to belong where we are, and Jesus goes with us along the way. -@Kristen_Strong: Click To Tweet