We’re still in the early stages of this #rebuilding project, but already – as I learn to use my voice again – I am learning it isn’t fear that has controlled me. It’s the desire to belong.
I called it fear, but fear was just the symptom. Fear is a pretty normal reaction when you know the choice ahead of you seems impossible: be you or belong.
In my younger years, I would have rolled my eyes at my need to belong; called it idolatry or dismissed it as needy. But studying the Scriptures doesn’t train you to trade stocks on Wall Street, and it doesn’t qualify you to perform heart surgery, and it doesn’t equip you to speak to the design of the human brain. When I went back to school and studied Cultural Psychiatry, I learned about the ways we learn ourselves through those around us, and that doesn’t make us sinful, that makes us human. I learned what it does to an individual – to not belong; how that creates a confusion of identity, deep fear, uncertainty. I learned that when we are confident we belong we experience healthy growth and change. It’s almost as if we were designed for this Gospel covenant of His, where unconditional love meets us before we even enter the room.
This call to find my voice cannot be fueled by shaking off the need to belong. It can only be born out of belonging. I will hit publish on this post when I can feel His claiming of me in the deepest part of my heart; when I sing over this heart of mine that has been excluded from so many spaces – you belong. You are welcome here. Wanted at your worst.
And this all makes for a good blog post, but the truth is this #rebuilding project isn’t really fueled by courage.
I’m not brave. I’m just giving up.
The truth is – if I could see a way back to belonging, I’d probably take it.
I would conform if I could. I spent years doing it. Not consciously. (Another thing I learned in school – conforming to culture is a deep and instinctive reaction – rarely a conscious choice). There were so many pieces of me that didn’t belong, and I just shifted, adjusting without even realizing it.
I felt that there was no part of me that was too precious to lose in pursuit of the person of God. And I knew – I know – He would never ask me to give up something essential. So I cut pieces of myself off. And – while it occasionally crossed my mind that God and the people who follow Him might appraise my design differently – and while I would occasionally have questions – the desire to belong trumped the doubts.
But my God saved me. He delivered me by writing into me things that I cannot cut off. I can imagine Him – looking down on me – this little girl – so desperate to belong, so zealous in her willingness to rewrite her very design to fit the mold of whatever someone had told her He wanted – and I imagine Him, with tears in His eyes, watching my story unfold; watching me run into the limits of my control.
I found the edge of myself. I found that there are things you cannot censor, cannot change, even if you want to. And sometimes you find yourself at an impasse even with people you love and people who love you. Sometimes a culture requires something of you that you cannot give.
So with grief, I have to accept: this thing I cannot change. Not for you. Not for me. Not even for God Himself. All I can do is figure out how to steward it for His glory.
They sent me to the wilderness, and I gladly fled. I ran from the weight of their disapproval, the pain in their eyes – it was so heavy that to get out from under their gaze felt like freedom. But that freedom was fleeting because it was replaced by the weight of their absence.
I never knew how it would feel to have the people who know you best, look at you as if they never knew you. I never knew how heavy it would feel to be forgotten, to be invisible, to be tolerated but not valued.
I don’t know why I waited so long to write the truth. I don’t know why I was so afraid of shutting the door on the possibility of going back. I cannot go back anyway. This is just me giving up on trying to earn my way back to a space where I no longer belong.
Because it’s not belonging if you’re tolerated in the name of Jesus, rather than wanted. It’s not belonging if you are accepted like a token or like proof of some virtue. Like it’s impressive to want someone like you.
And I cannot settle for that. Not when I know how it feels – here. With Him. Not when I know how it feels to be invited to His table, to be seated in the heavenly places, to be treated with respect and dignity, to be so wanted that He left everything to come for me.
Child of God – one of the greatest victories Satan has had in this generation is convincing you that you can’t belong in the church. You ARE the church. You may not belong in some specific building in your city, you may not fit in a specific 501 c(3). But ‘church’ is a word that describes the relationship between you and me and Jesus. And He’s the head of the Church, not some pastor down the street. And let me tell who belongs in Jesus’ culture: me. Not future me. Not healed me. Not sanctified me. All of me.
It’s a terrible choice to put before a human: Be authentic or belong. You cannot have both.
But we can. My soul whispers this to me. His Spirit whispers this to me.
And together – we delight. We belong.