When We Don’t Want Others To Belong

 

I’m looking for spaces that are a homecoming. I’m realizing it’s not easy to find places of true belonging and it’s even harder to be a person who offers it.

I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want to belong, but I know many who want to disconnect, to distance, to separate and divide. Myself included. It seems antithetical but it’s actually the way we most often experience belonging- by separation.

I am a big fan of “me too” moments. It’s one of the reasons I feel most called to write about issues like mental illness, race, body image, and sexual abuse. There is a solidarity we experience when someone else has been through what we’ve gone through and that’s valuable and necessary. Knowing we are not alone is a gift we offer one another in the face of the vulgar and brutal world that seeks to devour all of the holy and beautiful places of redemption God has established.

I find solace in a suffering Jesus, knowing there is nothing I’ve endured that He doesn’t understand intimately. I could not love a God who remained distanced, impassively watching the world carry on without being with us in it. We find commonality and community in those moments when we feel understood, seen, and valued. When our experiences are validated and our personhood is treated like it matters. When we call out the Image of God present in one another.

When it feels like we have found our “people” it is easy to rest in that easy acquaintance that doesn’t cost us nearly as much as loving our enemies. What a ridiculous and scandalous commandment Jesus tasked us with! Doesn’t God know what those people are like? How wrong, how backward, how unlovable our enemies truly are? There is a Pharisee in us all that cries out, not them too, surely not them!

There are fault lines everywhere, seismic shifts quaking our bones and throwing us off center. The cracks in the universe float us out to distant seas, and we gather on islands of agreement and plant our flags in soft and easy ground. We’re unwilling to till the soil and bloody our hands with the hard work of peacemaking in cracked and dry ground. We question what could possibly grow in this hostile and foreign land?

This past election and our current political climate highlights what was always brewing. A chasm between tribes entrenched in their own ideology. A tendency to define ourselves by our walls, not our bridges. Our determination to divide ourselves by our beliefs, by our convictions, by our groups. There are countless ways we separate ourselves from ourselves and God.

We think it noble to stand by our convictions, when really we’re standing on them, building our own platforms of righteousness and justification. We use them as an excuse to draw lines in the sand, but Jesus bent low to the earth long ago to scribble in the dust before a broken woman. Someone who would have been decidedly out. He set the outrageous standard of belonging. He didn’t condemn her. He offered her life.

Do we forget that we are that woman? We have itchy pharisaical fingers that want to palm stones to throw.

But all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. “…There is none righteous, not even one.” -Romans 3:10

Disputes within the church leave her standing straddle-toed and awkward, a body off balance and clumsy before the world, who looks on to witness her clawing at her own flesh, gouging her eyes, plugging her ears. She is hemorrhaging from self-inflicted wounds. She appears to be a madwoman at war with her cells, her sinew, her very marrow. But we are promised that the Church will remain, that nothing will prevail over Kingdom Come and that His Kingdom is forever. We don’t get to decide who’s in and who’s out.

So why are our pockets of belonging so limited?

We talk of love. But to love, to be loved, is to be known and valued as intrinsically worthy of belonging. To love and to be loved is to be a neighbor, to be a friend, to be a body. We have made grace contingent on a list of right thoughts, right actions, and acceptable conditions. Grace is not grace when we charge our neighbor a great debt to earn it.

Sometimes we look for spaces that offer invitation. But God is asking us to be a space that isn’t just a group or club but a homecoming. A place of refuge, a place to fail and fall and be lifted back up and dusted off. A place to be recognized from a long way off. A place to be called brother or sister, neighbor, friend. A place where love never fails. A place where the thud of stones echo as they drop to the dust, where we can walk free, commissioned not condemned.

A place to belong.

Alia Joy

Alia Joy is a storyteller, speaker, and homeschooling mother of three making her home in Central Oregon. She shares her story in broken bits and pieces on her blog and finds community where other’s stories intersect. She's a cynical idealist who is always trying to find the beautiful bits in the midst of the messy and broken. She believes even the most broken stories have a redeemer and she'll always dance to the good songs. She is a regular contributor at (in)courage, SheLoves, The Mudroom, and Deeper Waters and can be found on twitter hashtagging all the things, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and making goo-goo eyes at her husband.

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  • Chandra

    One of my favorite writers does it again. Speaks right to my heart, the exact thing I NEED to hear. I’ve been thinking about belonging (wondering where I belong) a lot lately. Thank you, Lord, for this timely message. Love this, Alia!

    • Alia_Joy

      SO glad it spoke to you where you are. I’m preaching it to myself lately trying to remember what God calls me to in such a divisive world.

  • Nancy Roe

    So, so spot on!

    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks Nancy, I’ve been thinking of you often.

      • Nancy Roe

        Thank you so much! That is powerful medicine for me, to know others are with me.

  • You are love and you are light, Alia. I enjoy reading your words. I’m taking them in and sitting with them today. Thank you so much.

    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks sweet friend.

  • “Commissioned not condemned” – so good Alia. Some uncomfortable truth here and what I needed.

    • Alia_Joy

      Yes, preaching to myself. Uncomfortable truth indeed.

  • Sue Andrea

    Just so, so good! Can NOT wait for your book!!! “Grace is not grace if we charge our neighbor a great debt for it”-what a powerful and true statement.We require so many things first before we are willing to open our doors and hearts which isn’t grace but a conditional membership-it’s requiring that we/I/they fit in as opposed to belonging.

    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks Sue! It feels so weird announcing it publicly now, way more real. It feels like before I was playing make believe book writer. 😉

      • Sue Andrea

        You are anything but a make believe writer!! Oh my word-ypur writing sing-don’t ever doubt you are a REAL writer!!

        • Alia_Joy

          Thanks Sue. I think all writers have their doubts at times but this was more in relation to the actual book. It just didn’t feel real that I was actually writing one until now even though I’ve known about the book deal for awhile.

  • Sweet friend, your writing is so on target, so lazer precise, that words fail to come to me at the end of you post.

    Now that I have recovered, I want you to know how amazing you are!! You are brillent in your thoughts, conclusions and in the prose that takes us on the journey with you. I treasure your writing.

    And though we have been together only once in real life, I call you friend. You are loved, just as you are!!

    • Alia_Joy

      I love you too, Diane. I’m thinking surely we’ve met more than once, but maybe that’s just because it feels like we’re old friends from writing.

  • DebSteve Rhoads

    Alia, I have followed you, and I’m continually blessed and challenged by your words (His words through you!) But this message is truly from the Throne of the King! I cannot adequately express how it has pierced me and buoyed me at the same time. Confirmation of what He has been speaking to me for this moment!! Be blessed… you ARE a blessing!

    • Alia_Joy

      Thanks so much! I love it when something confirms what’s already being stirred in our hearts. So cool!

  • Stephanie Thompson

    Alia, I’ve pondered along these lines lately. In our passions to advocate and liberate, we unknowingly “draw lines.” We can too easily become consumed with our particular voice and tune out others.This becomes all too tempting when others share a different perspective. Rather than engage, we return to our comfortable, affirming community rather than this “A place where the thud of stones echo as they drop to the dust, where we can walk free, commissioned not condemned.” When we do that we, are missing opportunities to expand our identity as God’s children.