Belonging, at least for me, takes a great deal of effort.
Attending children’s classes at church each week, I felt like the ‘odd-one out’, because I didn’t attend our local church school. After being together daily, my peers had established friendships that took longer than a couple hours once a weekly to make.
From junior high through high school, I never really felt included equally. There was always a tension present; I just knew that something wasn’t completely right. The only time I had people clamoring for my attention was doing a group project. They wanted to work with me, not because of who I was but because my smarts and work ethic would guarantee them an ‘A’. (Yes, I actually heard that comment more than once.)
My first ‘real’ salaried job as an adult showed me that the struggle to belong doesn’t end with your grade 12 diploma. I quickly found myself excluded because of healthy lifestyle choices and my refusal to spend lunch outings complaining (aka gossiping) about co-workers, managements and company issues. I used to think it was in my head, until another co-worker confided to me that she hated how everyone else treated me there. I knew that if someone else could see it, it was bad.
Not belonging often meant I was purposely excluded. Overlooked, left out and omitted for being too nice, too kind, too polite, not complaining, not gossiping, not cursing…. The list goes on. I didn’t belong when I dared to be different.
Yet the advantage of struggling to belong meant that I had to dig deep for my sense of worth. It wasn’t rooted in how I looked, acted or talked. I took my sense of worth from God and His Word. I discovered that I do indeed belong somewhere and to Someone. I was created on purpose, for a purpose. All of these hardships were part of the refining process, molding me to accomplish the work that God has for me to do.
You wouldn’t believe how the number of instances of when I struggle to belong are flooding my mind. It’s a good thing the time guideline is only for five minutes. I didn’t even touch the obvious yet—race. That discussion will come in later posts.
Join the five minute Friday community here. With all the great readers, writers and cheerleaders, you just may find belonging. I have.