“I am a stranger on earth.” Psalm 119:19a
We all long for a place of belonging. Many may not admit it, some may not even recognize the need exists, but deep down, within each of us, we long for a place to belong. We live in a time where connectedness is supposedly at its apex, and there is a place somewhere for everyone. By the same standard, sadly, people often feel more disconnected, isolated, and out-of-place more than ever. Social media presents only the best foot forward for all. If you want to indulge in a pity party, you need to look no further than Instagram or Facebook and start to scroll, then you can lament how everyone else’s life looks better than yours. Yet, all the while, the scrolling and the comparison trap only serve to further isolate us and feed discontentment and disconnectedness. We tend to think of the middle school years as the awkward years with kids on the brink of the teenage years yet still immature, gangly, and not quite even fitting into their own bodies. If we are honest with ourselves though, how many of can relate to that in the throes of our adult years? It doesn’t take much to catapult us backwards into those years where we were uncomfortable in our own skin and inwardly begging to not be noticed. But, in adulthood, it’s easier to hide that we don’t feel like we belong. At least in middle school, everyone there felt the same way so there was a built-in community of people who belonged together all feeling the same sort of awkward way. On the heels of those years, the high school days were the place of belonging, right? Friend groups abounded and you could pretty much identify which cluster best fit your needs and interests. Even the misfits fit together as their own group of outliers.
Then we grow up. We either go to college and often develop some lifelong friendships or we join the workforce. We often busy ourselves with the details of our lives and create our little worlds. Yet the longing of belonging resides deeply within us. We are quick to quiet and hush it and fill it with another activity, another notch in our belt up the corporate ladder, another vacation, another child, another ___________ fill-in-the-blank. Eventually we cannot escape the question: where do I belong? I remember being a girl of about eleven or twelve. We were at the beach, which is a haven, a refuge, and home for me. It was nighttime, and I was in awe of the God who created the night sky and the vast ocean before me. Even then, I loved to write and to journal. I felt this draw, this stirring in my soul, to connect to something. I remember sitting on our deck that led down to the beach and staring up at the sky, wondering where I belonged and what was my place in this world. Fast-forward nearly 30 years, and I am still that girl asking the same question: where do I belong? Except now the stakes feel higher and the price of admission seems to be perfection.
For many years, I attended church as a divorced woman. I felt like each week I sat there, wearing a scarlet A amongst the perfect little families with mothers, fathers, and their perfect four children all of whom were home-schooled. And there I sat, a working mom, a divorced woman, still longing to give my children the spiritual foundation of Jesus and a church home. But we struggled to find a place that made us feel welcomed as opposed to pitied or judged. I didn’t much like the antics of high schoolers at the time and never felt like I fit in there so I certainly was even less of a fan as a grown woman. I had enough on my plate to try to appease the people. I was too busy trying to prove to everyone that my children weren’t less than or lacking because I was a single mom. Looking back, even at that, I wish I had released the urge to please and to live up to someone else’s standards and expectations. The experiences from those church settings conjured up the long ago feelings of not belonging. When we feel like we don’t belong, we put ourselves at risk. The enemy sees us as vulnerable because we are. He loves nothing better than to foster feelings of isolation.
The myth every misfit believes is that no one sees me, no one understands me, and there is no place for me anywhere. The truth is this: there are no misfits in the kingdom of God. Every single one of us is offered a seat at His table. We need only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, to accept Him as Lord and Savior of our lives, and we forever belong to Jesus and the family of God. On the pages of Scripture, we find fellow sojourners on this planet who identify with not belonging. The psalmist in Psalm 119 calls himself a stranger on earth. I can relate! I feel like a stranger on earth every day and it is merely getting worse. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly! The patriarchs also were called foreigners and temporary residents on earth, seeking a homeland (Hebrews 11:13-14). Peter refers to fellow believers as strangers and temporary residents (I Peter 2:11). The truth is, as children of God, we do not belong here on this earth. We will never feel completely comfortable here because our eyes are looking heavenward and we are seeking a city whose Maker is the Lord.
We have been asking the wrong question. The question is not where do I belong. The question should be: to whom do I belong? We, in fact, are misfits on planet earth because our home is in heaven. We are temporarily passing through here so we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. We must commit ourselves to kingdom work while we are strangers here. Hosea 2:19 beautifully states it this way: “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” (ESV). How much more can we belong than being betrothed to the God of heaven and earth? He has betrothed us to Himself in love and in mercy. Sister, brother, we belong to Jesus.
Though I have not always felt like I belonged in certain churches, I do steadfastly believe that, as Christians, we also belong to each other and belong to the body of Christ. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually, members of one another” (Romans 12:5, ESV). As the body of Christ, we share a common goal, a common faith in our Savior, a common mission, and a common eternal destination. We may not always get it right when relating to one another, but we should never lose heart and discontinue meeting together as one body because we do belong to each other. Even now, I feel so out of place in a vast variety of social settings. I would rather crawl under the covers, snuggle my dogs, and retreat because I feel like I do not belong in most settings and places. But I know to whom I belong. And, because of that, I can embrace my inner misfit, allow myself to be vulnerable and love other people, and offer other misfits a place of true belonging in Christ Jesus. So can you!