I recently read the above words in the newest book from Annie Downs, Let’s All Be Brave, in a chapter she titled “your people.”
As an “outgoing” introvert (I know that may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s the best way I know how to describe myself.) these words resonated with me. Over the years, I’ve learned something about myself: I can quickly and rather easily make lots of acquaintances, but arriving at the “I belong here” place is sometimes a struggle for me. I can remember three significant times in my life when I knew for certain (and instantly) I was exactly where I belonged.
The first time I was 18 years old, I sat next to my mom’s hospital bed, held her hand and said goodbye as she left this life and moved onto to the next. I wouldn’t be able to put this moment into words until years later, but something else happened that day. I watched what little brave I had, die that day as well.
The second time I was 29 years old. I walked through the front doors of my old church in North Carolina for the very first time and knew I was home. In the 12 years that I was a part of that church family, God somehow took this shy, flawed, fear-filled girl and decided to use her to do things she had no idea she could do. I felt like Moses most of time questioning God’s decision. Umm…really Lord…why me?
The third time was just a few short months after walking through those church doors, when I walked through another set of doors and took a seat in a 12-step recovery meeting. I was surrounded by folks from all walks of life and I did the bravest thing I think I’ve ever had to do…admitted I drank too much and needed help.
These were the handful of times I can remember in my life when I recognized belonging almost instantly. I am so thankful for these times in my life (as hard as some of those seasons were). These moments grew me in ways I never would have grown had they not happened.
I’ve had other times where I sensed I belonged. But the process of discovering it was much slower. I’ve learned and continue to learn over the years that, typically, this sense of belonging happens only after months or after years of investing, establishing relationships, and building trust. It’s worth it…but it’s a process of give and take…of being there for others and letting others be there for you. I want this. I need this. But there are times I still struggle with this.
All this writing and thinking about belonging makes me thankful, once again, that even though finding “your people” here on earth takes time and investment, there is another door I am invited to walk through where belonging and acceptance is instantaneous. I can’t help but think about Jesus. He longs to call us friend. He promises us that when we walk through His door and take His hand, we belong. (Matthew 7: 7-8) We are home. And, if we truly believe this, if we truly embrace this… we have all the brave we need to make it through this life. But I think the mistake we so often make is we stop and straddle the doorway. We are afraid to come inside and take a seat.
In many ways, as a Christ follower, I have to make the braver choice over and over again every single day: to walk fully into His presence and to take my seat in the circle. This is where I belong. This is where I am brave. This is what gives meaning and purpose to all the other circles.