To be known, loved, and accepted is a deep need of every heart.
Belong is a word that pulls up powerful emotions from the well down deep in our hearts.
Belong has a space all its own in the real-estate of our hearts, one that is often sanded down with the grit of experiences of wanting to fit in, to be accepted as we are.
Often marked by the experiences and emotions where we didn’t belong, it can be tempting to overlook the many blessings of belonging. Life as a military family has offered up changing opportunities to belong…or not.
Belonging for the military family
“Belong” is a tough word for military families, frequently moving from one duty station to another. Change seems to be the constant of our lives, and it is hard to find the oasis of belonging in a desert of different.
The hardest part of frequent moves is the uprooting of belonging. Support systems, friendships, groups, jobs and loved places–these are just a few of the treasures that have left a deep imprint on our souls in each place of belonging.
The day I had to physically pull my 7-year-old daughter apart from her first best friend, I fought back tears thinking, my heart is going to fall out, right here on the front porch.
Red-faced with hot tears streaming, my little one sobbed, “Don’t make me leave, Mommy. Why can’t Rachel come with us? We belong together.”
So painful, this first experience of a child now old enough to understand the security of belonging.
For the military family, belonging includes a new address every few years. It can be so hard to let go of belonging when the moving truck is packed, the orders are stamped, and it is time to leave. In the leaving, there is the fear of not belong mixed with the pain of heart-wrenching goodbyes.
This is the life rhythm that our family has gotten used to. Yet as hard as it is to embrace change and risk belonging, we are all the richer for it.
There is a strength in each of my children that is not dependent on belonging to a particular group of friends. They have learned that given time, friends are found everywhere God sends us. They have experienced the strong bond of belonging to our family is not tied to any particular address.
We’ve learned to give the grace-gift of belonging
We have all learned that we each have the gift of belonging to give to others. To welcome with a smile and an invitation, to get involved with care, to include and bless–these are the gifts of belonging that we can give.
Maybe the best lesson of all has been this:
When we give to bring others in, to invite them to belong, acceptance is no longer an issue. We run faster and live lighter in the grace of giving the gift of belonging to others.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality”–Romans 12:10-12
What has been your greatest challenge to belong?