The Joy of Not Belonging

Ever since I read Anne of Green Gables when I was nine years old, I longed for a bosom friend like the titular heroine had. How wonderful it would be, I thought, to have someone who loves me and understands me completely, and, more importantly, with whom I will always belong. Since then, I had been seeking for a community to call my own.

I prayed, I sought, I tried in different ways to belong to someone or a group of people in the decades since then. I was like a hungry vagabond dreaming of finding a place to settle down where I would be hungry no longer. But there has never been one place where I felt I could truly be at rest. Deep in my heart there was always a stirring to keep on going. Whenever I started to get attached to one place or to a few people, there would soon follow a realisation that I am called to get up and move on. More often than not, I struggle with this call. I want to stay. I wish to linger. I would like these people I’ve come to love to continue being in my life. But when I cling on in this way, there would always be an undeniable and gnawing dissatisfaction that grows in my heart because I know (really deep down) that I was created for more. This desire for the Real, the Beautiful, the Good and the True burns so fiercely in me that I cannot bear to live with anything less. Even though the cost seems so high at times, even though my heart breaks, I cannot – will not – settle for less.

Then, very recently, I came to realise that I am not meant to belong. Not in this life on earth anyway. I began to realise that actually, hidden even from myself, my greatest desire was to be able to be completely at God’s disposal. I want to have the interior freedom to go wherever the Holy Spirit bids, to lose my heart so completely that I would love no longer as I choose but as God invites me to. But no person can be a slave of two masters. If I am called to a life of radical freedom, then I must let God keep my wings unclipped and my feet untethered. More importantly, I must let God unchain my heart from all the good things I desire to love and hold on to. To be God’s alone, I must allow God to direct my will, my intellect, my affections.

How can I possibly describe this crazy and painful joy when I find that I do not belong? Even as I am still grounded by so many attachments, my heart soars above my body in a surge to cleave to God alone. There is an impatience at all the chains that hold me fast even as the growing love in my heart tells me to wait in humility and trust for God to set me free. My wilful and fallen human nature still compulsively grabs and clings to the bright loves of this world even as my soul strains to launch itself irrevocably into God’s infinite and dark embrace.

To be fully human is different from a broken humanness. To be fully human as Jesus was is to be not of this world. It is to belong fully to God; to be loved totally and to be able to love totally. Everyone seeks to belong, but belonging to any community or person in this world is temporary. God is saying to me, “I want your gaze fixed on eternity. On Me. I am your home. I am your community.”

Even in marriage, the lesson is the same. Perhaps the most beautiful and difficult lesson in my marriage is that I do not belong to my husband nor he to me. We are meant to be rooted not in each other but in God and to grow alongside each other in a special way only because God has called us to serve Him together.

So it is that after 26 years of seeking to belong that I find that I already do. The problem is that I have not yet learned to be at home in my own heart; I am not yet at home with God and with my self. But I now declare it to be a great blessing whenever I feel that I do not belong because that keeps me focused on the One to whom I already do.

Categories: Faith & Spiritual

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