Longing to Belong

Nearly two years ago, our family moved back to West Chicago from Sterling, Kansas.

It was not an easy transition for me.

Though we lived in Sterling only three years, I felt I belonged in that tiny Kansas town more than I’d belonged anywhere else. I could be myself there, quirks and all. I felt that I fit, that there was a bigger purpose for my individual gifts.

Then we moved back to West Chicago—a place we’d already lived—and I felt launched into no-man’s land. I had to re-discover who I was, what I should be doing, and where I fit—all in the bigger context of suburbia with its many, unconnected worlds.

In October of our first year back, an editor friend offered to look over my adoption-story book proposal. We met; she gave me her very sage advice; and she said, “You know, there’s a theme running through this, and I think you need to let it shine more. This book is really about belonging.”

I missed the irony at first. How do I show the struggle to belong in this story? I wondered, not realizing I was living it out in my own life. But bit by bit, I started to see it. Then, though, came the feeling that I was the only one going through this. Everybody else has it all figured out, right? 

Um, no.

We all “long to belong.”

We all “long to be.”

We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to be integral to this bigger something, and we want to belong for simply being who we are, not for our talents or accomplishments.

At the same time we have a desire for significance in who we are individually. We want to be seen as important or needed or gifted. We want to be unique and special.

I call these longings the “we are” and the “I am.”

These two are perfectly combined in the person of God.

God is the complete “we are.” He is three IN one, completely inter-connected, with the same purpose, sharing the same “being.” Jesus said, “I and the Father (WE) are one.” In I Corinthians 13:14, this unity is called “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”

Yet God also calls Himself the “I AM.” God is significant—He is significance Himself. He IS unique and special.

So our desires—to belong and to be—have holy roots.

But when they’re not fulfilled in the Three-In-One who combines them, they grow up twisted.

That describes most of us, most of the time. Look at me, we cry. See what I’ve done. See that I’m special.

OR we cry, Pick me, pick me. I don’t want to be left behind. I want to be “in,” not “out.” I want to belong.

And deep down, we really want both.

The only answer to them is found in our God, who calls each of us His “masterpiece,” who tells us that together we are His body, and there are no unnecessary parts. In Him, He says, “we live and move and have our being.”

God, help us to lose our earthly ideas of “i am” and “we are.” Help us to understand that being IN the “I AM” fulfills both our desires: our longings to “be” and to “belong.”

In the great “I AM,” we can be.

In the great “WE ARE ONE,” we can belong.

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2 thoughts on “Longing to Belong

  1. Jen, I see these longings in myself and others. In Scripture we see God calling us over and over again to unity in the Body of Christ. This is where we find our true belonging. As we use our individual gifts serving Him together we find purpose and significance. Where I get into trouble is comparing myself and/or my circumstances to others. I continue to learn to be content in all circumstances like Paul. A battle well worth fighting. I love you, Mom

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