A friend recently shared with me two wonderful songs. One comes from movie, The Greatest Show on Earth, "This is Me." and the other from the Broadway musical, Dear Evans Hanson, "You Will Be Found". The songs are powerful in their message. It is all about our authentic self, not being afraid of our differences, and the need to belong to one another.
What is it about the need to belong that shapes how people behave? The more I meet and speak with people, the more I realize that everyone in some way or another feels that they do not belong. It seems as if belonging is equated with normal and so we wonder if we don't feel that we belong are we "normal"? We define normal as conforming to a standard or the usual, typical condition.
It also seems as if even those who appear to belong struggle with that meaning. With the advent of Facebook you can really see that struggle. Those who "belong" have created a facade of what a belonged person should be. They create a superficial standard and before you know it, there is an in and out group. With most people feeling "out". A keeping up with the Kardashian type mentality.
The thing is, no one truly belongs. We all feel separated from each other. That is one of the greatest lies that the deceiver promotes. He wants to divide and conquer us. We start believing we are alone and therefore not normal. The more we believe that lie, the more isolated we feel. Isolation (different from being alone) is not good. It can lead to irrational thinking, harmful behavior of the individual and of others. I am reminded that the only time God said His creation wasn't good was in creating man without companionship or community. It was good when God created human relationship- Adam and Eve. God designed us to live in community and with a sense of belonging.
Being different is not a criteria for being excluded. Not being part of the "norm" shouldn't hinder us from belonging. Quite the contrary. Being different is necessary for us to live in community. Think of it as a potluck dinner. The best potluck dinners are those in which everyone brings their best or favorite dish. All those wonderful flavors make up a great meal. If everyone brought the same dish or even the same type of dish say, just desserts we would soon tire of the menu at best. If that was the only type of food we could eat (desserts all the time), we would become ill at worst.
I do believe that there is a place for all in God's community. His love for us is so strong that He will and has done everything to bring us back to Him in community, even to the point of sacrificing His own son so that we can belong. Unfortunately that great grace that He has shown to us, we forget to show others. We forget that God has said it is good for someone who is different to belong in community. Instead we have created those superficial standards to determine who is in and who is out. And that is not good.
How can we embrace into community those around us? Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes those who are different are hard to understand, are difficult to love and can be burdensome. Yet it is imperative for us to do so. Now more than ever.
Perhaps one step is to not play the comparison game. If we don't keep up with the Kardashians we don't have to continually strive for something we are not. We can be grateful for what we have and who we are.
Another step is to accept that we are loved by God just as we are. If He knows the very hairs on our heads and how we are uniquely and wonderfully made, we can have the confidence that He knows us, warts, scars and all, and still loves us.
Then we can concentrate on developing our unique gifts and what we bring to the collective community table. When we recognize that we have something to offer, we can be more generous with others- what do they have to offer? We do not have to be threatened by someone's difference but celebrate it.
What about you? Have you ever felt that you were "outside looking in" on the collective human experience? Have you ever be on the inside? Did you feel a sense of belonging? Have you ever included someone "different" into your social sphere? How did that go? What makes you different and unique? How can you celebrate that?
How can you make someone else feel that they belong today?