"Belonging" is a driving force that often propels our significant choices. For me, belonging is more about knowing why my presence matters than seeking approval. Looking at each part of my life, I try new things and differ from those around me, but I want my goals and desires to belong. I'm only at ease if I know I have a place of purpose. The problem is, relationships, of all dynamics, require risk. We don't always immediately know how people feel about us or why God is leading us somewhere. When we feel like outsiders, how do we trust there is a reason we're in that place? What can we do when our past experiences, biases, or insecurities tell us we don't fit in?
I am not quick to trust people. It's not that I expect everyone to have an agenda, but I'm wary of depending on new people. Sometimes I have to sit myself down and ask: Where is this doubt coming from? Is it wisdom or worry? I've learned that my gut feelings have a reason, but sometimes that shouldn't mean fleeing from the scene. I need to process my discernment and see where God wants me to go. A few years ago, I visited a local church, and although everyone was nice, I told myself it didn't "click." I didn't evaluate why I thought that; it was just a vague sense of non-belonging. About a year ago, I attended that church again with a friend and discovered the teaching resonated a lot more than other churches I'd visited. I decided to stick to it, and I feel so much better when I go regularly, even if my social circle is smaller there. I'm rejuvenated by worshiping with people who genuinely have their hearts on God. These good experiences don't discount the times I saw red flags and was right. The point is, we shouldn't start over whenever we don't fit in because "fitting in" sometimes only comes through joining in. When we pray and decide something will bring us closer to God, our next step is to be obedient even when it's not comfortable.
The verse "Do not conform to the pattern of this world," gets tossed around a lot in Christian culture, but its true meaning is rarely lived out. That command applies to our hearts, not only our visible actions. God calls us to stand on Him and not follow our peers in the wrong direction. Yet, God also created us to influence people and seek connection. We are unique in design, but we all have pieces of ourselves that are molded by other perspectives. We make no progress without learning from each other. Here are some ways to do that without conforming: Seek people with principles. People with different personalities or interests can still be strong supporters based on values. Don't assume you'll be an outsider because of superficial perceptions. Aim to give and receive, not fit in. Contribute your time and be yourself. If any person or group asks you to prove loyalty in a way that draws you from God, that will never be a secure relationship. Joyful belonging is in following Jesus together. You don’t have to be “good enough.” Especially in church settings, there is often a stigma of high expectations. You might think your hurt or hang ups will stick out like a sore thumb, but we all have something. Trusting God means choosing transformation, and that takes one step at a time. If you get to know people who genuinely trust Jesus, they will uplift you in renewal, because the same has been done for them. Consistency is key. Whether it's church service, a group, or a new friendship, you'll forget the benefits when something isn't part of your routine. The more regular it is in your calendar, the more confident you'll be about your place there. Instead of asking, "What if I don't fit in?" let's ask, "Does God want me here?" It's scary, but we seize opportunities by accepting that God sees ahead of us. He leads us to put ourselves in the shoes of others rather than wondering what they think of us. They've probably felt how we do and are working on where they fit. We find our groove and welcome others when we focus on doing what Jesus would do.Here at Sun Valley, we believe that no matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you, God loves you and has plan for your life. If you want to build friendships that are centered around God’s Word, check out all the types of groups we have running through the year.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.