A few months ago, over my winter break, I oulled out a 1,000-piece puzzle. It was the first time I had lived alone and I was into trying all sorts of new things. The puzzle had been there for a while and I just saw it and felt a big what-the-heck,-why-not moment so I went for it. Accompanied by many episodes of Law and Order: SVU in the background, I poured over the pieces for hours at a time, captured by the details and trying to find patterns, mezmerized by the way the pieces fit together so snugly, so perfectly. So very perfectly. There was something about that feeling that struck me. The slide into place, the snap, the precision of fit with no gaps, no lack… It wasn’t forced, it was just so easy… so perfect.

And for some reason, a wave of sadness washed over me. I longed for a place like that. A place that was made just for me. A place where I fit so perfectly that there were no gaps and no lack. A place where I became a part of something whole. A part of something bigger. A place where I contributed to a bigger picture. A place that was designed to fit me and only me. A place where I slipped into place so perfectly and knew that this was positively where I was meant to be. A placed where I was needed. A place where I belonged.

There have been only a handful of times when I was in a place where I felt like I belonged and those times never seemed to last. Even if it extended past a year or two, it still always ended at some point and that taught me that it never lasts. I know I’m better off than many to have had some experiences like this, but still… if it doesn’t last, what’s the point? What’s the purpose of finding belonging if it’s just going to end? And worse yet, I never quite know when that end comes, so in good times, I start to wonder and wait and look for the end. I become skeptical and suspicious. Cynical.

I think we were made to belong with other people. We were made to love and feel and celebrate. We were made to communicate and understand. We were made to care.

And yet we live as strangers. Walled off. Protected. Defensive. A single puzzle piece trying to figure out the big picture… Alone.

I’m realizing more and more how deeply I struggle with this. I wrestle with the feeling of constantly being alone and on my own. Feeling weary and exhausted. I’ve felt utterly abandoned for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, I knew I couldn’t rely on my parents and certainly couldn’t trust them with my needs or hurts. I was on my own to deal with my problems. We (my sisters) all were. It’s hard to fully know since I learned quickly to watch my back and not share too much. I didn’t want to open the door up to the possibility of more rejection and pain. That puzzle was very damaged. A number of pieces were missing and a few had ripped off parts. Many pieces were severely broken.

Our families are one of the most permanent or at least long-lasting parts of our lives though, and if that’s the puzzle we “belonged” to, I think it makes it that much harder to feel like we could ever truly belong anywhere. Like an orphan or stranger in a foreign land, with no real feeling of home, just wandering.

Because of this, I found it endearing that a community group I belong to decided to focus on a passage in Isaiah that talks about people who didn’t belong or didn’t have a future or purpose. Foreigners. Outsiders. Outcasts. Strangers. For those who looked to God, He made it clear that He did not want these people to feel that they had been abandoned and left without purpose. He was going to give to them better things than what they had lost, and for some of them, they felt as if they had lost everything including all hope for a future. The name He was going to give them would be everlasting. Yeah, forever. And He said He would bring back the outcasts… which means He noticed them. He noticed their absence. And He wanted them.

I found myself in this passage.

For as long as I can remember, I have been searching for this type of place and belonging with other people. I’ve looked for permanence in a temporary world. I longed for infallibility in a fallen world. I wanted people to be my rock, my anchor, and as I’m sure you can imagine, this never resulted in the safety and security I needed. This misplaced desire has been cause for so much pain and heartache. My orphaned heart was just trying to force my piece into some puzzle somewhere.

I don’t want to be an orphan wandering. I don’t want to be a stranger.

That little girl just wants to belong.

But at the end of the day, aren’t we all strangers passing through, everyone trying to find some sense of home?

The truth is, we’ll never find permanent and perfect belonging here on this earth. And I think that makes the puzzle a hopeful symbol of something more. The precise snap into place. The smooth, snug placement. The perfect fit. It’s soothing–healing even–to think that such a perfect fit can exist. There’s a hope for the future–a healing that comes when I realize that there’s nothing wrong with me for wanting to belong. It’s what our hearts were made for. An eternal home. A permanent place at the table.

3 responses to “Belonging”

  1. I’m often challenged by this desire to fit in, while simultaneously also wanting to stand out. It’s a paradox!

    I’m glad to read you are part of a community group. They’re not perfect, but it’s a good place to practice being you – even being vulnerable and transparent.

    As for puzzles…ugh. Good on you for working it! I can’t sit in front of a puzzle for more than a few minutes at a time before I’m ready to pull my hair out or move on to something else!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! The community has been a good place for me so far. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hear you. Although our stories are different –I totally agree with the thought that we were made to ‘belong’. As a child I never remembered a time when my mother was not there- she always was. This provided a certain measure of stability in my early life. However, as we move into adulthood – there’s still a desire to belong somewhere apart from home. I found that ‘somewhere’ in my faith walk. I still do have times that I have ‘find the where and the who’ depending on the season I’m in💖💖.

    Liked by 1 person

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