“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
Barbara Brown Taylor, Barbara Kingsolver, Paula D’Arcy, Cheryl Strayed, Kelly Corrigan…. so many authors, so little time. And each time I have picked up a book, I have discovered that these people, who I don’t know and have little in common with, can touch the deepest part of me. Not because we have lived the same life, but because we have experienced our humanity in ways that connect us- despite our differences. I also love to read blogs. Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker, Jamie Wright, Alise Wright, Glennon Melton…. again- all so different, yet so connected. Each one of these writers has found a way to make so many people feel like they’ve found a place they belong.
So,when I see a title like this one “When You Don’t Fit in at Church” I can’t help but click on the link. And when I read it, I just wanted to hug the post. (If you could hug a post.) There are so many words that could describe what church should be, but this was simply put and to the point. And- so, so, right on!
It’s easy for me, for us, to find all the reasons why we don’t fit in at church. It’s even easier to get stuck on those reasons and use them for an excuse to stay distant. But the idea that we can be so different, yet so loved, well, it comes as a relief. When I walk into church each Sunday, I can’t help but remember all the reasons why I shouldn’t be there.
I”m not from here. This state, this county, this church.
I’m not from this tradition. I don’t wash my plastic cups.
I’m not much of a group singing fan. Worship is hard.
I’m full of uncertainty.
But, like everyone else there, I want to belong. And I don’t want to just belong to the church name. I want to belong to someone. I want to belong to the people. And so maybe the myth is that you have to be the same to belong. Trying to find a place where I fit it feels like running in circles, not going anywhere. Have I been searching for the wrong thing?
Why is it that we long to fit it? Is it because we want to think the same and be accepted? Sure. But even bigger, we want to belong.
Fitting in has always seemed to be for the cool kids. But what if we could all belong? And the more I read the gospel, it’s packed full of oddballs who weren’t accepted by society. But Jesus crossed those lines and invited every weary person to join. To belong. So maybe my problem isn’t that I need to be like everyone else. I think the true need and desire is to find a place of belonging, no matter how different we are from each other.
How can we belong to each other?
We can stay open to each other.
We can stop assuming we know that we have figured each other out.
We can talk less, listen more.
We can love each other without the need to “fix” each other.
We stick it out, even when it doesn’t feel comfortable.
We can stop drawing the lines to decide who is “in” and who is “out.”
We can stop trying to be like each other, and start seeing the beauty of our diversity.
I have met so many people that I have come to love that have walked through the doors of my church. We are not all going to be close friends, but that’s ok. Belonging isn’t about socializing. It’s about opening our arms, even when its hard.
It’s about seeing each other, just for who we are, and saying Welcome.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”