A few years ago, Anika took her first acting class at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and I will never forget what Ben’s mom said when she saw Anika’s first performance that Christmas. She said, “Anika has so much more confidence – she acts like she’s not asking anyone’s permission to be there anymore.”
I sat there for a few seconds as that hit me – I could see that change in Anika myself, but what was sinking in for me in that moment was that I suddenly realized how I’ve spent my whole life waiting for someone to give me the permission to be here.
In some situations, I think I can come across fairly confident, but the truth is that most of the time, deep down inside me, I enter a situation feeling hesitant, and holding back, waiting for someone to draw me in, make me feel included, give me the permission to be there.
I try to hide it as best I can – I never want anyone to know that I’m dealing with insecurity, because I’m embarrassed to be 36 years old, and still struggling with something that seems so junior high-ish. But the truth is, I still carry scars from junior high, when I was told over and over again that I didn’t belong.
But then I get curious – surely I can’t be the only person who feels this way. How many other adults are there, right around me, who also carry some secret, hidden longing to be included, to really feel as though they belong, and there’s a spot for them that will remain a gaping hole unless they fill it?
A friend told me the other day that she doesn’t understand this struggle. She enters every situation, thinking, “Who WOULDN’T want to be my friend??! I have Jesus in me, and I am an asset to every situation I encounter!”
I love it. I want to be that way. But I think there’s some old, deep-rooted junk that I’ll need to deal with first.
As I’ve been reading the book, Can You Hear Me?, I came across a fascinating exercise:
Picture yourself standing beside Jesus in front of a mirror. Imagine that he’s just exhaled a big gust of steam onto the mirror. If he were to use his fingertip to write a message on the mirror about your true identity, what would he write? Read it.
I decided to give this a try. I spent some time quieting my thoughts, and then I did exactly as the author suggested. I asked Jesus, “What do you want to say to me about my identity?”
Immediately, a word appeared: it was the word belong.
And suddenly, I felt as though this great, deep, consuming hunger and longing overtook me. How I desire to feel as though I belong!
Ann Voskamp once wrote a beautiful blog post about how we can always know we belong, because God longs to be with us – we belong. That’s stayed with me. And it makes me wonder if I’ve spent years being mistaken about my longing.
As we’ve moved from place to place, and I’ve made friends again and again, I keep wanting to feel like I’m home – like I’ve found the place I’m meant to be, and I belong. So I have these huge expectations of what that will look like and feel like, and then I’m disappointed each time, which leads me to wonder if I can really, truly belong.
But what if that hunger for home, that desire to belong, is all just this longing I have to be with Jesus? To be known deeply and fully, and to stop searching and striving, to stop being disappointed when others don’t give me the permission for being here, because it was never theirs’ to give?
I remember reading Psalm 139 over and over again as a teenager –
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways….”
There was something in that which spoke to my longing even then. I wanted to be known. I wanted to be searched out, sought after. I needed to be reminded of how He longed to be with me.
My friend, the one who is an asset in every situation, said to me, “What if this whole time, it’s been a lie? What if you’ve always belonged, but you can’t see it, because you’ve been believing a lie?”
It’s true, isn’t it? Since the day I became a Christian, I’ve always belonged to the only One who matters. He knows me, and He goes with me, and I need no other permission to be exactly where I am.
The lie has robbed me, not only of the security that’s been there for me all along, but also from the chance to help others feel it, too. When I spend all of my time wondering if there’s a place from me, I have no room to see the person beside me who’s wondering it, too.
And so we all need to hang onto the truth that He longs to be with us, He gives us freedom from the lie that we don’t belong, and He gives us the security to go out, and share that truth with everyone around us.
So today, whether this is something you struggle with yourself or not, wouldn’t it be awesome to go out there, and say, “With Christ inside of me, I am an asset to every situation! I have everything I need to give to someone else who is lonely and hurting, and I can cover each person with truth and peace.”
We already have permission!;)