When I was about 10 years old, a sweet lady from my church (I think she was also one of my Sunday school teachers) took me with her to an exercise class. I was so excited to get to do something just for me (my younger sisters weren’t going) and she even paid for me which now, as an adult, I realize was a sacrifice for her. I felt really special.
We took a ride in her car, an old beater with springs poking through the seats and no air conditioner (a big deal in Phoenix) and no seat belts (yes, it was THAT long ago). When we arrived she instructed me not to lock the door or roll the window up since she was secretly hoping someone would steal it because she could get something better with the insurance money. I remember being so excited to go do something so grown up, the energy inside me was just shy of a shaken bottle of pop, until we walked inside.
It was the time of Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical.” All the women were wearing brightly colored workout clothes (reminiscent of bathing suits with nylons on under them). My mom had dressed me in her black leotard and black tights. I looked like an extra from the Dick Van Dyke show. On top of being the only kid there and looking like the jazzerciser that time forgot, I was completely unfamiliar with any of the exercise moves. Everyone else stomped and twisted and kicked in a smooth and steady flow. I was awkward, a tangle of feet and limbs that soon left me lying on my beach towel and watching everyone else move. Gracefulness has never been in my repertoire. I did not belong there.
In my newfound passion for counseling, one of the first things you learn is it is truly rare for someone to really feel like they belong. You can have a family, friends, a church, a job, and still feel like the only one who didn’t get that joke that everyone else is laughing at. You can go to a baby shower or bridal shower or birthday party and wonder if anyone would notice if you left. A part of us always feels…apart.
It’s like the crazy way that people who live in a place never seem to appreciate it (often hate it) and would prefer to live in the exact opposite place; like when I went to Victoria, B.C. and ran into FIVE people who had been to Phoenix in the summer and loved it. (Dumbfounding, huh?) I used to think that it’s because you always want what you don’t have; you always think that something else is better. I don’t think that anymore.
I think it has more to do with searching for a place of belonging. The same part of us that wants to find beauty in a place other than where we are, feels disconnected even among a group of friends and loved ones. It’s that pain inside we long to fill and try so vainly with things other than what is intended.
There’s a song out now by Building 429…”All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong.” My heart practically screams this when I hear this song. Those who have lost hope have forgotten that we don’t belong here. We have a place of profound beauty where we are meant to be. This world is just the prep room, where we learn what we need to know there. “Take this world and give me Jesus. This is not where I belong.” Even on beautiful days like today, my heart yearns for another place. A place of belonging. The place where my heart is now.