Anyone who has played volleyball with me would agree: I spend more time ducking than I do spiking. They know I do not belong on any court involving a flying ball. I also don’t belong on a debate room floor as I stumble over my words and respond emotionally rather than logically. This is a type of belonging based on our strengths and interests and giftings, but there is another type of belonging. This other type of belonging resides in the heart of every man and woman and is the most difficult one to fulfill in our own strength and understanding.
I know what the unfulfilled yearning to belong feels like. It feels like I’m gazing through a window at a party of people who belong, while I shiver, not just from the cold rain, but from a longing deep within to belong to something or someone where the warmth and love is evident.
In my vision, I see a smiling someone motioning me to come to the door and I see myself taking a few tentative steps towards the door, thinking ‘Could it be?’ ‘Is this the place for me?’ As I reach for the handle, I see my tattered sleeve and I halt. I’m ashamed of my state, the state that comes from the wear and tear of living life. I gaze into the window again and the welcoming glance turns into a questioning glance as I slowly back away, fighting tears, with heart breaking over the awareness that once again, I perceive I don’t belong.
This sense of not belonging haunts and taunts and I am not alone in experiencing this feeling. One mis-perception leads to another and so it is with the mis-perception of ‘I’m not good enough.’ Our faulty beliefs of ‘not enough’ feed the sense of ‘not belonging.’
This longing to belong is birthed by God in our spirit so that we will long to belong to him. This gift, left untended or rejected, produces an unhealthy search to find our sense of belonging in people, performance, and professions.
The longing to be is a gift and the gift received is to belong.
“But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” 1 Corinthians 6:17
When you respond to his call upon your hearts and say, ‘yes’ to his Lordship in your life you become unified with him. When all else falls apart and you are facing division in your personal life, you can know that your spirit is one with the Lord and be at peace. You belong to him.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you have been bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (emphasis mine)
You were bought at a price. God demonstrates the value he places on you through the cost of his Son’s sacrifice. You could argue that you are not worth a life, especially the life of God’s son, but your arguments have no bearing on the simple, profound, life-altering truth that you are treasured beyond measure. You are valuable. You belong.
“You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
There will be a place at the table, on the other side of the rain-splattered window, for you if you will say yes to the invitation and come in from the rain. As a member of the body of Christ, you are gifted with a purpose and this purpose is to encourage, love, serve, and pray for each other. It doesn’t take an extra-ordinary person to offer a smile, a hand, and a heart. It takes the extra-ordinary God whom you serve to work through you to fulfill his purpose in the body of Christ. You belong to the body of Christ and have a place in it.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:3-8
A longing to be loved is fulfilled when we read these words from Ephesians. In love he chooses us. In love he keeps us. In love he freely bestows the title of ‘Child.’ Adoption is the heart of God and just like any adoption there will be an adjustment period. Because many of us have little experience with the depth and strength of a love so pure, a questioning about the truth of this kind of love wells up within us and we ask: “Will God still love me if I disappoint him? Will God stick by me when I’m at my worst? Will God be safe enough to reveal my deep, deep hurts to him?” You belong to God because he says you do.
These verses assure us we are one with Christ in the Holy Spirit, we are valuable and priceless, we have purpose in the body of Christ, and we’re chosen in love by God.
The gift of longing to be is fulfilled when we find our unity, our value, our purpose, and our love in God who says we belong at his table of grace. He flings wide the door and pulls you in despite your worn and tattered coat and he takes that worn garment from you and gives you new clothes. Clothes that signify you belong to him.