One of the scariest places to be is at a writing conference – alone.
I know. That sounds hyper-dramatic. But it’s what was going through my mind at the time.
I’d been in the publishing industry for a while and I had a large group of friends who’d become very dear in those first few years. But it just so happened that one evening, all of my friends had dinner engagements with others — their publishers, agents, critique groups… I hadn’t even thought of it until my stomach rumbled. I was hungry, it was dinnertime and I was alone in a near-deserted hotel lobby.
Now, this is not a sad story of the time I ate a fancy sit-down dinner by myself. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I walked over to the coffee shop, bought some hummus and fruit, and saw a woman in line whom I’d met the day before. And something magical happened in that moment. God penciled-in an appointment in our schedule books that neither of us had anticipated. This woman had been alone too, so I asked, “You want to go sit down and talk? Get to know one another?“
It took a bit of stepping out, but we were both really asking, “Do you want a place to belong for a while?”
There’s something to be said for a sense of belonging. Of walking into a room and you are known. Wanted. Expected and embraced. And for five minutes, I had that terrible feeling of “without”.
Do you feel that way sometimes? “Without”? That you’re walking from place to place, suitcase in hand, looking for a home?
It’s happened to me on many occasions. I’m an introvert, so unless I’m brought in to speak on stage, I’ll naturally gravitate to quiet corners and chairs in the back of crowded auditoriums. It’s just my way. (I realize you wonderful extroverts might have no idea what I’m talking about, but stay with me.) And for me, it often feels like I have to fight for the belonging. Especially when there are past hurts, fears, and awkwardness in the suitcases I’m carrying around. That empty chair at the crowded table isn’t always the easiest thing to find.
But here’s the bit of encouragement I wanted to share at the start of your week: We all have a place to belong.
I’m not immune to moments of suitcase-carrying. That conference I mentioned? Well, it was just last year. And no matter how things look in the picture outside of us – we all long for that place of belonging that no matter what comes, we’re loved. Accepted. Forgiven. Vulnerability is okay at home. As are mistakes. And brokenness. And joy that comes in the morning. All of these things are wrapped up in the beautiful concept of belonging.
I love to think that when I’m in the midst of suitcase-carry through a dark valley, that there’s a thimble-full of light at the end of that journey. And there’s home. The front door opens and I’m welcomed. Expected. Embraced. Loved. And I hear those beautiful words:
You belong here.
I may not know you all well enough to sit in a hotel lobby and share snacks at a writing conference (oh, how I wish I did!), but I do hope I can tell you one thing. As your friend in this place. As your sister in our precious Lord Jesus. As your cheerleader in the faith… You belong.
That’s what Jesus longs to tell you.
Whispering to that place of hurt we all try to keep packed away.
We don’t have to look a certain way. Own an unblemished past. We don’t even have to know where we are today. If we walk through the door of our faith, broken, scared, suitcase-carrying through our present season of life, we still belong.
I don’t know your story, but I hope you share it with someone you trust. I hope you have a place of safety to set your suitcase down. A place where you feel comfort to talk. A place to shed your “without”. And if that place is here, in this very moment, I’m so glad.
We’ll listen and invite you to belong today. Why? Because I don’t have it all figured out. I’d venture to say most here don’t. We’re not the picture of smiles and care-free journey-walking that you see of the girl in the photo. I’m looking for belonging too. Over and over. Day in and day out. And you know what? Like that God-appointment at the writing conference, He’s brought us here today. Right now. In this moment. While you scroll on your phone during your quiet afternoon or while your children are napping.
He knows your heart. And if that heart is struggling today, if it feels so terribly “without”, it’s okay. He’s always, always at the door. Expecting you. Moving things around in the entryway. Making room for your suitcases. Waiting to embrace you. To love you. And He’s waiting to whisper those lovely, lyrical words when you walk in the door. Standing with pierced hands over His heart, He smiles and says:
You belong here.
With love, dear friends,