Longing For Belonging
God created all of these beautiful mountains and trees, this beautiful Earth, and He looked at it and said no. This is not enough. This world needs you.
First of all, wow. Talk about hearing exactly what you needed to; talk about God speaking to us through other people. As I sat in a small group on a church retreat, I realized through my friend that nothing has the power to take over my belonging because I intrinsically belong through God. As a girl named Shelby wrote in her Delight devotion, ““If each one of us is a part of the Lord that has never been seen before and will never be seen again, then why would I want to miss what the Lord is trying to show all of us?” No matter what, we are an important member of this world-- a piece of God that only we as individuals can carry out. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this.
I came to UNC Chapel Hill this year with zero credits. My roommate came in with 62. At orientation, some of my suitemates discussed how they’d received 5s on AP exams like Calculus. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. Automatically, I believed that I was not good enough. Not in general, and not for the school. I came to UNC Chapel Hill this year and joined some clubs, several of them being campus ministries. As I met and talked to other members, I once again felt as if I was not good enough to be there. Through speaking with them, I felt that they were perfect and I was someone caught up in sin and worldly things. But, I came to UNC Chapel Hill this year and realized that I am good enough. As cliche as it sounds, there is always someone who understands, who struggles with the same issue-- no matter what it is. I constantly find myself in a state at surprise, as well-- even the most beautiful, sweet, innocent people have their faults. Everyone does. I couldn’t be alone if I tried. As Maya Angelou puts it, “We must support each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shoutout and thank you to Delight, which I mentioned in an early quote. Delight is a campus ministry focused on college girls sharing their stories, as well as fun and community service. It advocates for vulnerability-- being open, sharing our stories-- and finding “me too” moments that are astoundingly relieving. From reading devotions from real life college girls and discussing with my friends at the meeting, we discussed sexual sin, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, relationship troubles, self-esteem troubles, college path struggles, and so much more.
Despite the pain and guilt and shame we all felt, crying and being the most vulnerable we’d probably ever been, there was hope, rejuvenation, and comfort. I remember sharing part of my own story, in which I did some things towards the beginning of my time at college that I wasn’t exactly proud of and definitely struggled with. I talked about how I felt too embarrassed and ashamed to go to God about it, and believed I had to do constant devotions and church groups on my own to “make up” for it before going to Him. Though in not so many words, I began to subconsciously feel that I wasn’t worthy of God’s love since I was treating Him this way, in a sense. Madi, another Delight writer, felt the same way. She began to wonder: “How am I supposed to believe I am worthy of God’s love if I am not doing anything explicit that could make him love me?” But then she realized “All my life I thought I had to earn this, when in reality grace was it.”
While the way I handled it and the thoughts I had weren’t exactly the best, God’s grace already had me covered. Because of all of these things, I’ve grown closer to God than I’ve ever been before. He reminded me of something I’d read: “Waiting to come to the Lord when you get your life cleaned up is like waiting to go to the ER when you stop bleeding. He doesn’t love some future version of you; He loves us in our mess.” There’s no escaping what we’ve done and God’s knowledge of it, but that’s okay. A couple days ago, I was reminded of this in my Jesus Calling book through 1 John 3:19-20: “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” That’s what’s so great about God-- He can turn anything into a good thing for your happiness and His glory. As human beings, we may not understand it. But Madi says this: “You will never understand grace. But you can’t experience freedom if you never accept God’s love.” She heard God speaking this to her heart, saying “No, Madi. You are enough. You are exactly who you are supposed to be right now. I am teaching you grace.” In her slam poem Today Means Amen, Sierra DeMulder echoes this, saying “This is exactly where you are supposed to be… you don’t have to suffer anymore. This moment is a Hallelujah; this moment is your permission slip.”
In a backwards sort of way, vulnerability brings us belonging. As Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy puts it, “Vulnerability isn’t the opposite of strength. It’s a necessary part. You have to force yourselves to open up, to expose ourselves, to offer everything we have and just pray it’s good enough. Otherwise, we’ll never succeed.”
So, I came to UNC Chapel Hill this year and learned the importance of vulnerability. We are always good enough; we are not alone in our struggles and temptations. We just have to be willing to open up in our relationships and trust that God will handle the rest.