It’s sad how a person can have a place in life, be part of a group or family, yet still feel alone and isolated.
Even with so many alternatives, it can be difficult to find a place where you ‘fit’. Some people are genuinely alone: No family, no God, no one. I doubt anyone has escaped this feeling at some point in time.
Marriage is a group of two. Sports have teams. Work involves people in ongoing interactions. And families are an almost guaranteed group, for most. Yet, It’s still very easy to find yourself alone; cut off from the reality of who you are and who you want to be. After all, groups that don’t care about a person’s best interest can do far more harm than good.
Belonging, the real kind, in its truest form, is where you become who you really are. It’s where you can be honest and accepted for all your faults and scars. It’s the place where you are loved without limits and helped to understand that where you belong is where life makes so much sense – so much that it hurts to think otherwise.
Isolation doesn’t necessarily mean you are alone. My relationship with God has taught me that there is no such thing as being truly alone or isolated. None of these exist in His world. I have come to learn that belonging isn’t a matter of the groups we are in, the people with which we associate, or the things we do and have. These are, in part, attempts to belong. Almost every classification created by man does more to isolate us from each other, and cut spaces between us, than draw us closer.
Sometimes, it feels like belonging is more about winning and less about helping and that the notion of a community more like a competition. The desire to fit in is one which society instils in us. It doesn’t really care about who we are, just what we can offer. It’s little wonder people can think God only likes them if they act in a particular way.
I’m colour-blind. Unlike my faith in God, I was born colour-blind, with an obscure perception of colour. It’s something I have to think about to notice. It regularly re-defines colour for me, as a life-long lesson. If I didn’t know about it, I guess it wouldn’t have changed a lot – the old ‘ignorance is bliss’ sort of thing.
I remember thinking that, to belong, I had to be able to offer something someone wanted. I had to be good at something, look the part, act the part or make moral compromises. I don’t know where I got it from, other than a visual feed from the world, but it grew in me an understanding that I had to possess a particular blend of characteristics, money or strength.
The truth came hard and fast when God came into the picture. From that day, I simply belonged. God handed me the identity I always wanted. I accepted it with new permission. It was the kind of agreement that broke every rule I’d been fed by the world. I remember the feeling on that day that I belonged to God: not as a possession, nor like something that was meant for His personal gratification… I just belonged.
1 Peter 2:9 may tell me that I’ve been made part of ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’, but I wasn’t His plaything, I was precious.
Since that day I have come to know the depth of God’s desire for us expressed in His Son: so that we could belong.
God has always been here. In a world of billions, I struggle with how anyone could feel alone. But it makes sense to me. Without God, we are weak and blind. We fall without knowing He is there to catch us.
From the day we breathe our first breath, we are set free on a million paths. We are given a whole world to choose from, as if God intentionally released us from his perfect protection, to get lost, so that we can find our way back.
I wonder now, how many people go through life wanting to belong and fit in. Then I wonder just how many give up under the crush of solitude, giving away the notion they are a special, that they were knit together in the beginning, by God; that they were and always will be an important piece in God’s perfect plan.
The freedom-truth is that we all belong, have always belonged and will never be alone again.
Oh, what it is, and what it means, to be known. Paul tells us so:
That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building.
There isn’t a single experience I have had in life more final than the gift of faith God gave me in His permanence, and more precious than the gift of re-connection that He gave me in Jesus.
As long as I remember, belonging has been about fitting in – being the right shape, size, whatever. Truth be told, I still have this in spades.
It’s not that God has given me permission to stop caring about what people think about me. If anything, He’s given me a greater understanding of my need to be in a relationship with Him and others.
It is much harder to develop an understanding of yourself and others when there are no others! Our belonging begins with God, who created us as relational beings, like Him. I have come to understand the most powerful belonging of all: being adopted into God’s family. For that, I will be eternally grateful.