the belonging

elizabeth gentry

I’ve chased belonging.  For years, I have chased the idea of belonging.


I always wanted to belong.  It felt inherent, like the desire to breathe and to live.  The need to belong felt no different than my need for water, shelter or for sleep.  It felt imperative.  It felt necessary.


Where some people wanted to be the center of attention, I just wanted to be seen.  Where others wanted to have a crowd gathered around them, I just wanted to be heard.  I didn’t care about having anything grand or glorious; I just wanted to belong.


There have been times in my life when I have looked around and only saw empty seats.  There were empty seats where friends should be, where family is supposed to reside, where a husband is supposed to be… there are seats, and they were all empty.  People come and sit in the seats periodically, for a time, but I don’t want people to come in and out.  I want people to stay.  How do I get people to stay?


This elusive idea of belonging: how do I reach it?


I feel like my life goes in waves of belonging.  There are times where I am “in”— times where everyone wants to be around me and sow into me and be my friend.  I get invited to everything, people are eager to spend time with me, and I rest in the place of knowing that I am wanted and that I belong.


But there are also times when I’m out.


There are times when no one calls.  There are times when people don’t notice that I’m missing from church or they don’t think to invite me to the parties or the dinners or the celebrations.  There are times when I sit at home alone when all my friends have gone out somewhere for something.


There are times when I’m left out, and all the joy that comes from the times that I’m invited in doesn’t surpass the sadness that comes when I’m left out.


So how do I belong?


There was a time, truly not that long ago, when the sadness that came from feeling left out and cast away was too much.  There was a time when I couldn’t run from the big feelings that I was feeling anymore.  There was a time where the question above was unanswered and I had given up on finding my place in destiny.


There was a time when I didn’t have a place to call home or a people to call community.  There was a time when no one wanted to hang out with me or help in my time of need.  There have been so many times that I have been overlooked and have felt invisible, but there was one time that seemed to be my last.


There was a point about six years ago when I thought that I would never find the place that I belonged.  There was a point where finding my place seemed impossible, and reaching that point sent me spiraling into depression.


I couldn’t figure out where I belonged or how I would ever belong, so there was no point in spending a life in misery searching for something that would never appear.


An entire lifetime of not belonging left me wanting to end my life in the hopes that I would finally have a place in heaven.


Growing up, I wasn’t in the “it crowd”.  My family was poor, we didn’t have nice clothes, and I wasn’t as pretty as the other girls.  My brothers were weird and violent, and my mother slept with people’s fathers and husbands: we were unwanted.  I didn’t have many friends, and the ones that I did have were most certainly not popular.


We moved a lot growing up, so I was never the foundation of the friend group, I was always just an addition.  Because of that, I was replaceable.  I wasn’t needed.  I needed them, but they did need me.


When I hit high school, I was the smart kid.  I excelled in academics, but I failed miserably in social standing.  I was the weirdly smart girl who smelled like cat urine and had freaks for family.  I was a nobody.  I didn’t belong.


When I moved in with my father at sixteen, things began to change.  I looked different, I acted different, I smelled different. I was in an entirely new school system, far away from all the problems and prejudices from before.  I started over, and when I did, my life changed.


I got in with the popular crowd, retaining my smarts but losing all the baggage that came with it.  I sacrificed a lot in terms of morals and beliefs to belong, but in sacrificing, I finally had a place.


I finally had a place and I finally fit in, but somehow, still, I didn’t belong.


I was no longer the quiet girl with outdated clothes, but I still felt like her.  People talked to me and invited me to things and knew my name, but I still felt like an outcast.  In crowded rooms, I felt like an island.  I was finally where I had longed to be, but what I had wanted turned out to be the opposite of what I needed.


So, I moved on, always looking for the next opportunity to belong.


I was witty and quick with my jokes, so I made friends wherever I went.  I learned how to handle my alcohol and how to be the life of the party so that my nights were never lonely.  I rotated men in and out so that I was always interesting and aloof— I left them before they could leave me and I always left them wanting more.


I set up a bunch of systems so that I’d never be alone and so that I would always fit in, but even with those, I still never felt like I belonged.


I had fooled my way into fitting in, but no amount of manipulation could get me to belong.


I didn’t belong anywhere that I went, and nothing that I did could ever carve me out a spot.


I was depressed to the point of death, and it was all because I didn’t belong.


I had a huge swell of problems, but truly, my problem wasn’t that I wasn’t smart enough or funny enough or pretty enough.  It wasn’t that I was invaluable or that the people around me didn’t appreciate me.  My problems weren’t there because I didn’t belong anywhere: they were there because I was forcing myself somewhere where I didn’t belong.


My problem was that I forced it, and you will never have to force yourself into a place where you belong.


I will say that again.


You will never have to force yourself into the place where you belong.


Our lives are random pieces, fit together to form some grand and beautiful puzzle, and we are all just trying to figure out where we belong.


Some of us are corner pieces, which are easy to identify and find a place for.  Those people are pillars: they know where they’re supposed to go from the beginning, and they set the foundation for everyone else.


Some of us are the outer layer: we know where we belong, but it takes some searching to find the exact spot.  People who make up the edges of the puzzles still must find their place, but they don’t have to search for it.  They link up and help to corral all the other pieces.


Some of us are corner pieces in the puzzle of life, some of us are outer pieces, and some of us… some of us, like me, are pieces that fit somewhere in the middle.


Being a middle piece is hard.  There is a longer period of waiting and searching for the middle pieces.  They are dependent on the structure being put together around them.  Other pieces must find their place first before middle pieces can find the pieces that they belong to.


The middle pieces are what make up most of the puzzle, but it takes time, commitment, and intentionality to find the place where they belong.  Middle pieces require more: more dedication, more thought, more pursuit— but they are the largest part of what paints the grand and beautiful puzzle laid out before you.


In life, we are all jumbled together and waiting to be sorted out by the active and intentional hand of God.  We are one colossal puzzle that needs to be put together, and our journey is about finding the place where we belong.


Some of us are corner pieces that know their place and go there from the start.  Others are edge pieces, and they have an idea and frame— so after a bit of time looking, they are plugged in and easily put together.  Then there are middle pieces.  It takes longer to find where they belong and it is more difficult to place them, but they are surrounded by people just like them.


You are surrounded by people just like you.


I get it.  Being a middle piece is hard.  They are dependent on the structure being built around them and they need others to find a place for them to find their own.  It’s difficult.  But the reward is great.


Like the pieces of a puzzle, each person has a specific place in the Kingdom.  I am part of a whole: I belong to the whole puzzle.  I can relate to all believers and have a friendship with every single one of them because we are part of one body.


But also like the pieces of a puzzle, not every piece belongs to every piece.


Each piece has a spot, and each piece interlocks with other pieces.


While I can have friendship with the entire body of Christ, I am only deeply interlocked with a handful of its pieces, despite still being part of the whole.


As a believer, you will belong to the entire body of Christ.  But as a believer, you will only intimately know certain parts.  Those parts— those people— are ones that will be locked in alongside of you for life, unchanging and unwavering and immovable.


Whoever you’re connected with in your place of belonging is who you will stay with as you carry out life’s journey.  And wherever you belong in God’s great puzzle will determine who you’re surrounded by, and how many people that you are connected with.


Corner pieces touch two or three other pieces— they interlock deeply and intimately with two, maybe three, other pieces and parts of the puzzle.  Edge pieces touch three or four others, giving them a few partners to interlock with and join with alongside in life.  But middle pieces?  Middle pieces touch everything around them on every side.  Six, seven, sometimes even eight parts touch the pieces that make up the middle of the puzzle.


It takes longer to place middle pieces, but when they’re locked into place, they’re locked in with a host of other pieces right beside them.


Middle pieces: when you find where you’re supposed to be, you’ll be rewarded with a huge group of people who have found their place right next to yours.  No longer will you live a lonely life of searching and striving, but rather, you will live a life of safety and security— one that is spent with those that you fit in with.  


Searching for belonging is something that we all go through.  Some of us find it earlier in life, some find it later, but all will rest in peace and in purpose in the giant puzzle that the Lord is putting together.


If you’re reading this today and you feel like the middle piece: don’t worry.  You’re not alone in your struggle.  You’re not the only one who feels left out or put to the side.  You have people that are waiting to be plugged in all around you: people that are just as lost and as in need of their missing pieces as you are.


One day, it’ll all fit together.  One day, you plug yourself into a place that you will just fit into.  One day, there will be no more searching or striving or pushing yourself to fit into a space where you do not belong.  One day, all your pieces will fall together, and you’ll belong.


Just like the pieces of a puzzle, everything will fall into place.


Until then, rest in this word, the word that the Father has given:




“To all my middle pieces: fear not!  You have a spot.  You have not been cast to the side as an afterthought but instead, I have a specific place for you. When I bring you to the place where you belong, I will bring you others who belong with you.  You will find your missing pieces.  More than that, you will be someone’s missing piece.  It will all fall together.  My hands are placing you in just the right place at just the right time.  Your sense of belonging is coming soon, my sweet daughter.  Hold tight.  I am moving things around for you.”




Because He is moving, I wait.  Because He is placing, I choose life.  Because He has a spot for me, I keep believing in the place of my belonging.  I will belong. You will belong.


Soon, we will all fit together to reveal the grand masterpiece that the Lord has knitted us together for.  Soon, there will be no more contemplating of life and of death for the sake of purpose and place.  Soon, we will all be free to grab ahold of The Belonging: Our Belonging.


He is moving you soon my daughter; wait for Him.

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