belong [bi-long] verb
1. to be part of, be in proper place 2. to be affiliated with or be a member of
the holidays are looming.
so, naturally it’s that time of year again when we start thinking more about family.
and families are quirky things.
they are usually marked by habits, traditions, opinions and insider humor. mine is no different. i grew up as one of five kids and we have no shortage of good stories, memories, and shenanigans that shaped our childhood. the craziest part is that we all remember stuff a little differently…as kids of the same family often do. and we all at times could feel a bit lost in the crowd or left out. even so, there was still a sense that we “had each other” on our worst days. and that our family was a sanctuary… with its faults and all.
my parents had a king-size bed that seemed enormous to us. and one of my very favorite memories was climbing into that bed on saturday mornings.
us kids would wander in sleepy-eyed, one at a time, and jump under the covers between my mom and dad. i remember feeling found and safe there. i think we all did.
space would inevitably get a little cramped as we all wiggled and squished in.
my younger brother michael was always the last one in for some reason and his words of dismay have become one of our favorite family sayings- “there’s no pwace” (place) he would whimper while standing at the foot of the bed with mounded up people and covers.
in response, my daddy would always pat the place next to him on the bed and exclaim-“yes there is” !! then we’d all squish some more and plead him to jump in.
i can still remember his little expression turning from sadness to joy.
from disbelief to belief.
from a sense of exclusion to inclusion.
and don’t we all want that ? to belong. really belong.
when we know that we belong somewhere or to someone it does something to our souls. it grounds us with a sense that we have a “pwace”.
a spot just for us where we are known and invited into… without hesitation.
for some of us, our families offered a taste of this. but for others of us there remains a hole.
either way, the truth is , the longing to belong is one of the most beautiful ways we bear God’s image.
our heart connections always speak of our worth and weight in this world, and that somehow our little frail existence matters and is noticed. and more amazingly, that God Himself designed us with a need to connect to others.
basically, we need each other because God is, at His core, a relational God. He lives in trinitarian community and shared love -always. so our very image has a beautiful basis and sacred design for neediness. yay. (said sarcastically under my breath)
i don’t know about you, but if i’m honest, this feels slightly terrifying and unnerving. not exciting or expectant. i feel a bit like my little brother standing at the foot of that huge king-size bed. wondering if there is room for me.
in fact, most of my earliest “heart wounds” as a little girl stemmed from being left out or uninvited with groups of neighbor girls and friends.
as the years have passed, hoping to belong has often felt too painful and way too risky. my middle aged heart can so quickly feel like my five year old heart.
but the truth is without taking the risk of relationship, part of me dies off. and part of my heart becomes numb and detached, choked off by self protection.
it’s a downright ugly place to be. and it’s riddled through with disbelief in God’s good heart for me. it keeps me stuck in believing i am alone and that there’s no “pwace” for me. so i choose to keep wrestling when i’m tempted to quit. knowing that it’s a daily risk to live expectantly and to walk fully in my God given image and to offer my sacred need for relationship to the others around me. to invite them in and trust that God is the One who sees, even if they miss or reject me. and this reminds my heart that life with God is more about risk than safety. as author Jan Meyers so beautifully words this invitation
“Life with God conspires to bring us back, over and over again, to a childlike place where we are breathlessly caught off guard by Love and reminded of all that we were created for and desire. And then we are brought back to a place where we must lean in and ask for those things the way a child does, depending fully on someone bigger than ourselves.”
-Listening to Love
when i consider my sense of neediness and dependence to be childlike, it doesn’t seem nearly as counter-intuitive. because that is the essence and beauty of being a child. children ask with exposed and unapologetic hearts.
so, why don’t i ? how did my childlike heart get lost and covered up along the way in this life ?
i desperately want to live that way. to feel with a childlike heart and to believe my Papa has good in store, and that i belong to Him. i’m becoming braver bit by bit. but it’s hard to go backwards…from being a grown-up, back to a child. to let my heart soar with expectancy like when i was a little girl. cynicsm can so quickly creep in and cut off hope at the knees. yuck.
it somehow feels really big that i “get” this idea, that we “get” this idea… because God keeps bringing me back here.
we belong to Him.
and belonging to Him goes far beyond family or friends, because even at their best, these kinds of belonging can fall short.
the truth is, the kind of belonging that God offers is not just some far-off, flowery or religious promise. we are , in fact, part of the trinitarian dance . this grounds us and reminds us that we are the beloved children of a relentless , good God.
His Fathers heart is always inviting us into relationship with generous grace and kindness.
i love picturing God as a Father with arms outstretched, patting the spot next to Him , saying… you are chosen
you are seen
you are wanted
you are found in every way. and you belong to Me, so jump in.
my resistance to feeling needy melts off when i let myself be taken in by this sacred affection. it makes way for my little girl-heart to come out and be willing to enter into relationships…and be the arms of God to the people i love.
so, if you find yourself among dear friends or quirky family in the coming months, don’t forget to take each other in. put your arms around each other and hold tight to your “people”, whoever they may be. make your heart a safe and kind place. tell each other “you matter” and that there will always be a “pwace” for their weary soul.
wishing you joy and blessings from my family to yours xxoo jamie