I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to belong. For most of my life I have always felt connected to someone or something, like I belonged.
When you're a child, if you are blessed as I was, you belong to a family. It's your own little world and it's your WHOLE world. There was never any question for me that I belonged, that this was my place and these were my people. I had security, stability and safety in that family. (A three point outline just like my preacher daddy!) Funny thing...we moved quite a bit so none of my belonging was tied to a certain house or school or community. My belonging was all about my family and my place in it-fourth daughter down, second to the baby. I belonged.
Having four sisters gave me another sense of belonging. Instant girlfriends and confidants! They were my first friends, my best friends and my forever friends. And they couldn't do a thing about it! They were stuck with me. But, I never felt like they didn't want me around. I can remember being very young and being allowed to get up on the bed and listen to Nora read Little Women. I remember "playing church" with them and always being given a part to play. Sometimes I got to play the piano and sing a solo: "I dropped my dolly in the dirt, I asked my dolly if it hurt..." Hey! I had a limited repertoire! There were endless games of Monopoly and Scrabble played. I was included. I belonged.
Then, off to school. Oh how I didn't feel like I belonged that first year! I belonged at home with my mommy. Or, at the very least, with my Sissy-sister #2, Rhonda. Most days were spent in tears behind the bookshelves while my sweet teacher tried to console me and calm me. I wouldn't have it though. I didn't belong here without someone from MY world. Most days consisted of walking across the hall with my 1st grade teacher to Sissy's 6th grade room so she could come out in the hall and convince me to stop crying. As if that embarrassment wasn't enough for her, she had to play on the little kid's playground at recess and lunch with me so I wouldn't stand and cry, watching her on the big kid's playground. Sissy made sure I still belonged even if it took away HER belonging!
Eventually I found myself able to feel that sense of belonging at that school and all the ones to follow. Well, except for one but that's another story. I only spent three weeks there before parental and pastoral intervention plucked me out of there into a school that felt more like home to a shy, awkward 8th grader. (Yes, I'm still talking about me...believe it or not!) One of the very best friends I ever had I discovered in school and she definitely made me feel like I belonged. She is actually the person who gave me the greatest sense of belonging in the kingdom of God. Judy showed me what being a Christian in every day life really meant. My eternal belonging was greatly enhanced by our friendship and her influence.
For many years I found myself fitting in, making friends, finding my place....belonging. It became second nature to me to feel at home in most circumstances-work, church, social. I didn't understand how anyone could feel like they didn't belong. How hard was it, after all? If you wanted to belong you did just that...you belonged!
Sometimes life teaches you lessons that you weren't aware you needed to learn. Those are the hard ones because they come unexpectedly and sometimes painfully. For the first time in my life I didn't belong. At least, in my mind. Once I felt like a puzzle piece that was put away in the wrong box I started not wanting to be part of any puzzle. I wasn't even sure I wanted to find MY puzzle box. I didn't fit. My life hadn't turned out the way I planned. My dreams died or were changed. I didn't just fall into step and march along; I stumbled and fell and even stopped altogether. Would I belong again? Did I want to belong?
I am finding that life really does go in circles. I realize that my struggle to belong in the last few years has brought me back to where belonging started for me....my family. It's different now. Daddy and Mother are gone. My baby sister is gone. But, it's still family...the one I live with and the ones to whom I will forever be bound. This is my place. This is where I belong. If I manage to feel at home anywhere else-church, work, friends-it will just be a bonus. I belong to these people I call family and that is enough for me today.