Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Belonging

I was talking to an out-of-town friend recently about whether she's enjoying life where she lives. She said it's been hard to feel like she fits in, that she yearns for community.

It got me thinking. Some things never change with us girls. I've determined that seventh grade lives on in all of us to one degree or another. Sure, we've moved beyond zippered Guess jeans and permed side-ponytails, but the issues are basically the same.

I've also determined that there's a difference between
fitting in and belonging.

Fitting in connotes a blending in, a certain amount of conformity, being like those around you. Belonging is quite different. We belong to our families, for example, but we can be wildly different from our siblings or parents. We belong to all sorts of groups and sub-communities but it doesn't mean we're like everyone else there.
The truth is: We may not fit in where we belong.

And if given a choice between fitting in and belonging, I'll choose the latter.

But it hasn't always been that way...

Often wondering if I was something of a misfit, I've struggled to fit in. Sure, I could make friends and navigate social waters easily enough but on the inside, I felt misunderstood, different.

In the past I've overemphasized certain commonalities with others that are actually secondary at best. And when I couldn't find the common, I strived to be someone I wasn't and it always felt like work.

At 37, I'm learning a lot about how God made me, thanks to some divinely-appointed guidance along the way. I may never fit in but I don't feel weird or sad about it; I've made peace with different.

Another friend who recently moved is trying to make peace with location and I wonder how many of us are in that boat with her. For 8 years I've lived in this area. I'm sort of an urban girl at heart, yet I can see cows from my backyard and I drive by a few Confederate flags on my way to Wal-Mart.

Also? I'm not a football fan. At this point, 90% of my local readers will disown me. That's because the adjacent college town is known far and wide for football. The world stops spinning once the tailgates fold down in the fall. So you see, I've struggled to fit in here.

Oh the fretting and negotiating that's taken place between this fussy girl and her patient God. Yet He has been nothing but loving toward my picky self. He has tenderly shown me that this is where I belong. He brought us here.

Slowly, I'm learning to trust His sovereignty. And honestly, I would be sad to leave now. God has gifted me with a kaleidoscope of people over the past 8 years. I would have seriously missed out if I'd focused solely on the fitting in part.

Maybe you feel the same way, trying to make peace with where you've been placed or feeling like a misfit. And if you do, I hereby give you permission to let go.

Quit striving to fit in and embrace the freedom to belong...

Somebody may need just the sort of different you'll bring to the table.


  1. Thanks M. I need that today. It is almost a year to the day that we moved to Indiana leaving every thing we "belonged to" and I have been mourning that feeling as of late. But you are right. I too have spent too much effort trying to fit in and will try to relax into a new sense of belonging here because I too know that God led us here.

  2. A dear friend gave me the book, "The Adventures of a Nose" 4 yrs ago when we made a difficult move away from a place that I had grown to love. It's a children's book, but written for the 7th grader in all of us. It's about a nose who travels around the world looking for a place to fit in. Everywhere he goes, he just sticks out and never just fits in. He becomes depressed and ends up in a psych's chair where he comes to a great realization. He fits in by sticking out! Everything actually fits in around him, because he is a NOSE. For the last 4 years, I have been a nose. I have "fit in" by sticking out. I have come to realize that the whole world fits perfectly around me not by me fitting in, but by being different, swimming upstream, taking risks, being creative, and living a life of spontaneity. God has brought just the right people into my life, that fit perfectly around this proboscis of a person that I am. You are one of those people, and I am blessed that through it all you're the other nose that I get to call BFF.

  3. Scooper,
    Once again your words pierce me to the core of recognition. Yes, I know I'm designed to be different and not blend in too much; set apart, I think it is said. But oh this can be a lonely place sometimes. Lonely, without friends to walk along side me during my struggles. Seriously, not a pity party here, just a reflection.
    It's nice to read Lily's thoughts too as I know you two have a sister heart connection. I like her nose analogy. I'll need to look up that book, it seems I need to remember my *place*.

  4. These are the things that have been running through my head lately. We've been in our town for almost 4 years, and never in my life have I felt so different and alone. I haven't thought of it in terms of "fitting in" versus "belonging" though. I'm going to think about it more. My first thought is that I don't fit it because I don't belong here. But like you, I know to trust God's sovereignty. I know we didn't end up here by accident. I know there is a purpose for it, and maybe not fitting in is exactly where we need to be right now.

  5. thank you for this post. Today I have been seriously pondering this very thing and having a difficult time dealing with not belonging.
    I appreciate your words -

    Best Wishes,


  6. Well, dear, it seems that your words, once again, definitely belonged here and the sentiment expressed did most definitely fit in with some of your readers' hearts and thoughts. Keep thinking, keep feeling, keep writing. You belong here.

    Love you forever,

  7. Had I know so much of that was about me you would have never gotten a-hold of my barbie dolls!! (grin)
    I hope this trip brings new perspective, a new attitude and a heart of gratefulness.
    Love you so much. Tell your hubbie he's married to a wonderful woman I love dearly and Happy Birthday.

  8. just send me a bill. once again you have written exactly what i need to read. thank you.

  9. "We may not fit in where we belong."

    This is mind-blowing to me, somehow. Yet so simple. Yet so true! Basically - it's a "Duh" moment for me. Thank you.

    ps- My high school did not have a football team, nor did my college. I do not like football. I do not understand football. I do love the show Friday Night Lights, but that's as close as I get.

  10. Making peace with MY different: I had a paradigm shift last month. Realizing that God loves my essence has helped me see life through eyes of compassion instead of eyes of "different or outsider or weirdo." I love the perspective you have for yourself here but I have been focusing on how "belonging" affects my impact on the word. When I approach the world as someone who belongs- I am empowered to make a bigger difference in my "community." It's exciting to know that God does love my essence and that I belong to my creator and am created for good in my Creator's world. I'm still trying to "fit" but I need to less and less...

    As far as systems go, psshht...

  11. Hey sis! I just read this older post it resonates! Sometimes, our Father does indeed call us to "belong" where we may not naturally "fit in". That is completely where we find ourselves right now. In my flesh, I don't know that I would ever have chosen this for myself...that much, I know, has come from God! Yet, no matter how badly I sometimes want the friendly, 'stable' neighborhood or a new house where the projects are endless and we haven't caught 2 mice since moving in 2 months ago, my soul knows better! Thanks for this post, and I'm glad I found this one right when I needed it. Love you, Em


Share your thoughts?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin