Where I Belong
I spend most of my life questioning whether or not I fit in. I feel…
too short or…
not good enough or…
too outspoken or…
not outspoken enough or…
too silly or…
sometimes I feel just plain awkward.
Perhaps you’ve experienced some of those feelings, as well.
As a human being who lives in a human world, I suppose these are feeling I should expect to experience. We are all broken and desperate to belong to something. Each of us is on a search to find where we are valued. The problem is, most of us spend our days telling ourselves a story that we don’t belong and are valueless. We wonder if anyone will really “get” us or understand our point of view or embrace us, mistakes and all.
To struggle with a sense of belonging is to be human.
There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s completely normal to want to be loved. However, sometimes it can take some trial and error to find your people.
In middle school and high school, you probably moved around in different friend groups every now and then. Maybe one day you thought you were a nerd, and another day you embraced your inner goth. That’s all simply a part of the process of figuring it out. Every now and then I think I’ve found my people, the ones who I feel as though I belong with. Perhaps I find others who tend to think like me, so I assume we belong together. Then I discover that thinking alike doesn’t create belonging.
So what is belonging?
Is it shared values? No.
Is it identical background? Nope.
Is it having the same political viewpoints? Definitely not.
Is it in dressing the same? No, that’s just weird.
You see, we’re constantly seeking belonging in the things and people that look, feel, and talk like us, but belonging is about so much more than outward appearance.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had feelings of loneliness hit me. My sense of belonging was nonexistent. Then I hopped on a plane to Cincinnati.
I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the 2016 National Youth Workers Convention. I’ve come to this event countless times before, but had taken a few years off from it. Since I’ve done it all before, I had an idea in my head of how everything would flow. I didn’t expect anything surprising to be totally honest.
The thing about God is He’s always surprising.
My first seminar was on racial reconciliation. I walked in the room a few minutes late, and it was packed. Walking in late is always awkward, and I considered just leaving, but something in me pushed me to stay. I grabbed one of the only seats available. After I got settled I started looking around and realized how hard some of our subject matter was. I suddenly felt like I didn’t belong there because what on earth could I add to this conversation? I’d probably sound like a complete idiot if I tried to throw out any input. In that moment, God reminded me to simply listen. So I did.
What I heard hit me hard.
Not everyone in the room had the same experiences or story.
Not everyone in the room agreed on theology.
Not everyone in the room was the same race.
Not everyone in the room looked like one another.
Not everyone in the room were in the same denomination.
But everyone in the room loved Jesus.
Jesus is a uniting force that breaks down all barriers between us and creates true belonging for each and every one of us. We may not share the same histories, but we share Jesus.
We belong to him.
This reality continued to hit me as I walked around and had conversations with people and listened to more seminars. Jesus was everywhere.
I finally had to sit down and soak in what I felt God was telling me through all of this. I sat alone in a corner of the convention center and watched people as they walked by. I knew absolutely none of them, but as each person passed by, God reminded me that they are my people. This is where I belong.
We are the Church, the body of Christ. We must rememberer that. Christ unites us. He embraces ALL of us and says, “I love you. You belong with me.”
I saw that lived out in front of my eyes over the past couple days.
I saw hipsters, artists, band members, black people, white people, conservatives, liberals, college-educated people, people without a GED, young people, old people, guys with goatees, and anyone else you can think of come together for a common purpose, and I don’t think it was because we all love students. I mean, that’s part of it sure. But the bigger reality is…
…we all love Jesus.
The National Youth Workers Convention has been a reminder to me that I belong in Christ despite my outward appearance. None of that matters. What matters is Jesus.
You belong in him.
I belong in him.
Now we get to go and help others find belonging in him.
In Jesus is where I belong.
RYAN SCHMALL is the Student Ministries Pastor at Redding First Church of the Nazarene in Northern California. He is married to his wife Jeanette, and together they have three amazing girls. Ryan is passionate about creating experiences and environments for people to encounter God in new and unique ways. You can follow him on TWITTER or read his blog over at IAMRYANSCHMALL.TUMBLR.COM
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.