Have you ever found yourself somewhere you felt you didn’t belong? I have! I know it every time I step into the city—doesn’t matter which city, either. San Diego on the West Coast to Atlantic City on the East, I see those high rises and multiple lanes of speeding traffic, cramped streets and acres of concrete, and know that I do not belong there😂 Give me open skies, green hills, and fresh air any day.
But that’s not the whole of it. Cities might be uncomfortable for those of us who like elbow room, but the most debilitating sense of not belonging is when you’re with people and you just feel out of place. Like you don’t have anything in common. Like you don’t have anything to contribute to the conversation. Like you have no purpose being there. It’s a lonely, marooned feeling.
When it creeps up on me it whispers in my ears that I’m too weird, too awkward, too plain, too different, too broken, too [fill in whatever] to belong. Have you been there before?
It feels like you're a piece to an entirely different puzzle and you don't fit in the picture.
It is a very unstable place to be. And it’s a lie.
I keep thinking back to my community group as a personal example. I chose to go in the first place because I was seeking relationships within my local church body, which my family has been attending for the last several years. Since the day we moved there I’ve been skirting around on the outside, knowing I needed to step in but feeling too much of a stranger to take it.
I was afraid. And to be truthful, I still am. But I’ve come to realize something:
This fear is a scheme of the enemy.
The whisperings in the back of my mind, the doubt . . . it’s the enemy trying to keep me away from the very ones who will come alongside me in my faith. Who will help me to grow in strength and wisdom in the Lord. Who will bear up and bear with in the work for the kingdom.
I realized I was terrified of the very people whom I needed! Talk about irony. But that’s how it works, isn’t it? Fear is what drives most of us to stay tucked away in our shells, not daring to expose ourselves for who we really are lest we be judged and found lacking. Insufficient. Undesirable.
But God already knows everything about us. From eternity before time He knew each and every one of us intimately and STILL chose to give us life, free will, and Christ. His love knows no bounds and is beyond our finite understanding.
He knows how ugly we are on the inside, how fragile, how needy. He knows our personalities, dispositions, and uniqueness—after all, He crafted everything about us from the very beginning, and it was for a purpose: to fulfill His will in a way that only we, as our own individual selves, can accomplish.
We get so caught up in what the world thinks about us that we forget what God knows about us—what he loves unconditionally.
Grasping onto that truth, I am fighting the fear and the lies. Even if it’s just baby steps. Hence, the aforementioned community group.
It’s not been easy. At my age, most of my peers are married with small children—lightyears from my own stage in life! During fellowship time when everyone is lounging in the livingroom or swarming the snack table chatting about what young families are consumed with, I find myself tucked to the side. Uninvolved. Silent. Awkward and feeling seriously out of place. I’ve always been engrossed in stories of epic adventure, otaku culture, and weird food science, so what have I to contribute to the conversation? What right do I have to say anything? To try inserting myself into their world?
Have you ever had thoughts like these? Roadblocks that crop up every time you try to take a step forward? Potholes that threaten to cripple you, prompting you to give up?
The road that leads home is often fraught with trials, bumps and twists that make you think like you're going the wrong way.
But don’t throw in the towel.
This is something I also have to remind myself of. I might not have much in common with these folks and I might not be in the same place as them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak into each others’ lives. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one another, challenge each other, or encourage one another. There will be times to keep silent and give my ears rather than my words, and that’s okay. It might take a while before we’re close, before that sense of not belonging ebbs, and that’s okay, too. Friendship doesn’t always come fast, and nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
But that doesn’t change the simple truth that I am loved and valued for who I am and that I am where I belong—in Christ—and fellowship with his people is a good and wholesome thing . . . even if I do feel like the odd duck sometimes.
Don’t miss this, friends: you are loved and valued for who you are, too—frayed bits, quirky bits, wonky bits—everything. God loved you enough to knit you together (Psalm 139:13-16) and Christ loved you enough to sacrifice himself on the cross. To pay for you sins that you might be saved, should you accept his outstretched arm. (Ephesians 2: 1-10) In the bosom of Jesus we are known, accepted, loved, valued, and given purpose.
There is a place for you at the hearth of Christ. Come to the table!