"You never belong until you believe you do. And it’s only when you believe you belong, that you believe you are beautiful." (Ann Voskamp, guest posting for Lisa-Jo Baker, "The Gypsy Mama")
Sitting on the dugout bench at a baseball game, alone on the far edge, listening to the jokes the boys made of my hairy legs. Not having the bravery to join in my brothers' latest exploit, and that sense of dread mixed with shame like an angry sea roiling inside me. Playing with my dolls all alone, creating a fantasy land where I belonged and others belonged to me.
But worst were the whispers of an abuser who told me I was "different", "weird", "disgusting", that the world would be better off without me.
When your soul is still a blank slate, those words begin to define you. Deep-seated self-hatred and self-doubt lead to misery even on the best of days. Sing-song of the schoolyard on which I was also a foreigner - homeschooled before the cool kids did it - "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Sing-song of the tormented lobbed back at tormenter as she stitches another plate of armor around her soul.
Maybe it should be sung, "Stick and stones may break a bone, but words will never leave me."
20 years later, I am waving goodbye to 10 years of friendships that are now in the rearview mirror. If I had difficulty trusting before, it is almost impossible now. Relationships become a constant waiting game, anticipating you leaving me. It is only in pairs that I can relax, breathe, open up the armor and let you in.
It has been said that belonging is our foundational need. Perhaps being grown up is realizing that belonging happens in small slices. It is not a universal experience that occurs in every group, every team, every congegration. The few that have known you and loved you anyway give you enough belonging to float through seasons of isolation.
And there's always the hope, hanging like a juicy carrot, perhaps unrealized until our final breath - for the time when
...you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility...that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace... And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (exc. Ephesians 2, ESV)
We belong to the light, we belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words we've both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace for worse or for better
We belong, we belong, we belong together