Over the past few years, I’ve wiggled and writhed in and out of positions and circumstances. Nothing has felt quite like I’ve belonged. There have been beautiful things about each place we’ve been, but nothing has felt “right” and some things just felt wrong. It’s hard to explain, and possibly completely illogical, but I find it painful to even imagine not trying to pursue this ideology of belonging. Every day, I think about how I’d rather live adventurously trying to find belonging than to one day die wondering what life would have been like if we had. (I don’t write that with pride; in fact, I think there’s a lot of dysfunction in it).
In just three years, I’ve worked as a district representative with hundreds of churches and planned camps/retreats, lived in an apartment building as the community planner, been a pastor, a bartender, a server, and the manager of a pub, and moved across state lines three times. In just three years! It’s hard for me to ignore how crappy this makes my resume look. Each of these changes has made my roots and sense of identity feel ambiguous.
The other day, my friend Brook Fonceca shared a quote from Thomas Merton that I found to be striking:
Before the Lord wills me to do anything, He first of all wills me to ‘be.’ What I do must depend on what I am.
What does my life say about who I am? Everything I’ve come to rely on and believe in through my faith has its center in Genesis 1.27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” I’m determined to believe this about every individual I encounter and to expend energy trying to discover more and more what it means about us.
What I’ve grown comfortable with understanding so far is, the image of God is Love; being made in that image means, we are all inherently, intrinsically also Love. It is not a visual image, but one we all know when we see/experience it. Our faith speaks to this and aims to simplify every believer down to this center of being. Underneath all our behavioral conditioning, mental training, and emotional structuring lies this reality: Love. We are It, but we are not It alone.
This belief/understanding/foundation is more critical than whatever else I seek. What I mean is, this starting point is more important than the destination because this starting point is internal; it’s who I am, and who I am should not be decided by where I am. That starting point is the guiding point.
Now, I’m not throwing out my (possibly) illogical ideology of belonging (I’ve experienced it before and believe it’s worth spending a lifetime seeking), but how I seek it determines what I find. I’m seeking peace and belonging, but I’ll never find it with anxiety and criticism as my compass. And as the journey extends and wanders longer and further, it becomes more and more difficult to do, but I want to seek with peace and love as my compass; directing my minuscule decisions and actions, even my thoughts. After all, Jesus directs our attention to that level of being, “The coming of the kingdom of God (the place of ultimate belonging) is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
The soul is made of love and must ever strive to return to love. Therefore, it can never find rest nor happiness in other things. It must lose itself in love. By its very nature it must seek God, who is love.
– Mechthild of Magdeburg