The post I had written back in March titled Belonging was not meant to be a message or a missiological statement; it simply was a revealing of my thoughts and emotions of the moment. However, by the response I received via the comments thread, FB, private e-mails, or in person, I realized I had touched on a live topic.
One MK (missionary kid) told me, as we were talking about her pending graduation from college, is that all she wanted for graduation was “an address” – she just wanted to have a sense of permanency. Even in a temporary world.
Some of the other responses I’ll quote at the end of this post, but first I want to focus on the following two also given by MK’s. It seems to me they hit on something.
This young adult who grew up in Latin America, wrote:
Now thinking about it, we could never be one of them (local village indians). Everytime we moved, I would try to be one of them. For the most part the younger kids could accept me, but maybe fitting in wasn’t the point. I was there to be a friend and to impact their lives. Maybe the best way to do that is to be the outsider.
This adult MK, who has lived in several countries around the globe while growing up, wrote:
I don’t think I have ever belonged anywhere in my whole life. In a way I’ve stopped trying. It has no longer become that important to me to belong here on earth – as long as I know I belong to my Father in heaven. My identity is elsewhere. Maybe that’s how Jesus felt, and that is a comfort.
The following jumped out at me: “best way…is to be the outsider”, and “my identity is elsewhere”. This is powerful! I think we try to learn so much through missiology about “identifying and adapting” that the danger of the pendulum swinging far to the other side is real.
Taking a Biblical look at this, through Hebrews 11, we see a list of heroes who could resound a hearty “Amen!” as they lean over heaven’s balcony and give reply to those two MK’s.
Taking a look at five characteristics* that marked those Biblical heroes, we see:
- They lived as strangers on the earth. They were either resident aliens, refugees, or temporary aliens.
- They always knew something better awaited them beyond this earthly life.
- They felt more at home in another world.
- They never regretted their sacrifice of obedience
- They possessed an intimacy with God.
But that was them. What about us? We all – whether cross-cultural missionary or not – can pursue like characteristics by marking our lives with these five objectives*:
- We live with a heavenly goal.
- We live an inspired life.
- We live without extra baggage.
- We live with endurance.
- We live eagerly expecting Christ’s return.
This takes effort and purpose in the midst of a natural desire to have a sense of belonging in our current situation. May God’s grace and strength aid you with every step as you move ever toward your permanent home in heaven.
*these notes were taken from a powerful message my husband recently preached.
What others have said:
Not belonging (locally) has made my family and friends very important to me. They are God’s gifts and I treasure them!
Maybe we don’t belong the way they do–anywhere, after we have been on the field a while–but I think maybe we can make our peace with feeling left out to a certain extent.
I sometimes see hints that we are getting closer to being accepted now that we have lived here 17 YEARS…
I often feel alone in a crowd… because I can’t understand all that they say, so I mentally withdraw into my own little world.
I live in the Middle East, where outwardly people welcome you in, always inviting you, always offering food. But sometimes you realize they’re just being polite, not really inviting you into their hearts.
I have wrestled and still wrestle with this “not belonging” thing. And, I watch my kids wrestle too.