I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to belong.
About how the feeling of not belonging wounds deeply.
About how fear of rejection drives our decisions, relationships, and willingness to take risks.
Just ask someone about a time they felt rejected. Heck, just ask them about middle school. People’s faces still get a little pinched and emotions bleed into the narrative.
You just now thought about middle school, too, didn’t you?
The time you didn’t get invited and wished you hadn’t even known about that party. The time your best friend said you weren’t best friends anymore.
The time you got on the bus and conversation stopped because they all knew about that desperately dumb thing you did, so you just sat down and stared at the gum on the floor while their disapproval rested on your shoulders like a 50-lb weight.
Truth is, at some point we’ve felt less than accepted, less than loved, just less than.
It’s also true we’ve been on the other side of those stories. We’ve been the ones who, whether for right, wrong, or complicated reasons, chose to stop choosing someone and to walk away.
So we carry in our hearts pain, fear, confusion, longing. We’ve developed a lens for looking at the world to help us decide who will choose us, who will reject us, and how we will react.
Will we make preemptive strikes at the first sign of rejection?
Will we contort ourselves into what we think other people want?
Will we thumb our noses at relationships, building walls to keep others out?
But what if we could begin to operate from a place of confidence, of knowing for always that we belong? And not only that, but that the One to whom we belong wants to belong to us as well? In a forever family? Something so completely different from the pecking-order-existence we see around us.
Daily, I grow more in awe of a God that was drawing me to Himself, choosing me to belong to His family, before I could even form the word Yes to His beckoning call.
I am aware more than ever how my small moment of choosing Him as a young believer—and then, in choosing Him through a million daily decisions throughout my life—is in response to a massive love that came running after me and still runs after me as Father, friend, and lover of my soul:
For He chose us in Him [Jesus] 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 [legal heirs] 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. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
That means that before anyone else on this planet—any parent, spouse, friend, school, club, or church group—could accept or reject me, before I could even accept or reject myself, the God of the universe who created me made a plan to choose me.
He also made a plan to choose you, to set you apart for good purposes, and to crown you with everlasting love simply because it was His pleasure and will to do so.
His plan lets us stop being people who are defined by how “less than” or “greater than” others we are. We get to stop being defined by acceptance or rejection by other broken humans. We get to be defined by the new kingdom to which we belong:
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
When we start defining ourselves as children who belong to that new kingdom, to that King, we begin to dance in the rain of His mercy and grace. Then, another wondrous thing begins to happen: in our freedom and joy, we find ourselves becoming more like the King Himself:
Strong enough to be kind.
Brave enough to be honest.
Loved enough to love others.
And that old lens through which we look at everything and everybody around us begins to fall away, and we know we have come home.
(I talk a lot more about what it means to belong to the King in my book New Woman, New Clothes: Outfit Your Soul to Live, Lead, Love (2017). If you’d like to dig deeper with me, grab a copy in paperback or Kindle eBook from Amazon.com.)