Wrestling lately with the notion of ‘belonging,’ and finding myself restless. Unsettling at best to admit that I don’t quite feel ‘at home’ in my own places.
Sometimes, it’s the body I inhabit that doesn’t seem to fit quite right. I suspect that precious few seven-year-olds consider that a day is coming when they will fret over creaky limbs, wayward cowlicks grown too quickly gray, or the limits of dimming eyesight. Honestly, it’s not until I get out of bed and peer at myself in the too-large bathroom mirror that I remember I’m not 18 anymore. Not that I want to be 18 again, mind you. Once is entirely enough. I do wonder, though: Am I the only one who feels ‘young at heart,’ while even my beating heart shows signs of age? When a girl doesn’t seem to even belong in her own skin, alarms sound. Clanging, insistent alarms. My eighteen-year-old idealistic self (with much firmer skin and silent joints) shouts out, ‘hey! I don’t belong in here!’ I concur.
The homefront doesn’t always fit right either. Families grow. The previously ample space shrinks. We need more room! For our kids, the accumulating stuff, and the comfort we work hard to pay for. School years seem to linger as braces, sporting seasons, and girlfriends come and go. Then, with no advance warning, families diminish. Oh! The empty nest. I find myself rattling around in all that space, hanging on to it, because, well… GRANDKIDS. In an unguarded moment I admit that the warning signs were everywhere. Car keys. College apps. Departures and arrivals. ‘Home for the holidays.’ Time between visits stretches, and the miles separating us lengthen. Belonging fractures a bit.
Marriages and friendships demand our tending, and sometimes we grow weary. Sometimes we give up when we don’t want to. Sometimes we let go even when we know we shouldn’t. That’s not all. We worry about our futures, because, well, the world seems a bit fractured itself. ‘Wars and rumors of wars.’ Financial crisis. Debilitating illness. The inevitability of death. (the power of understatement, right?) The longer we live, the more we wonder: Where do I belong?
Life. We are, by turns, stuck with it, frustrated and then exhilarated by it, often simply wondering just what it means. We sometimes struggle to find that answer, but we know this much: we desire it. We clamor for abundant, satisfying life. Growing older — finding our aches increasing, our children grown, and our futures a bit too close for much comfort — doesn’t make us desire that abundant life any less, but we do start to wonder more frequently where we might find it. Increasingly, the world’s best promises fall short of what we’d hoped for. Still, ironically, we long for that sense of belonging, even while we’re forced to acknowledge that this world simply does not seem to provide it.
C.S. Lewis posits in Mere Christianity that “if I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” IF I — if we — are indeed made for another world (and of course we are), then our belonging is still to come. Lewis ends his Chronicles of Narnia series with The Last Battle. As the Old Narnia fades away, a far more beautiful and perfect Narnia replaces it. The place that everyone who believes in it — the Pevensies, Reepicheep, Digory & Polly, Mr. Tumnus the faun, Shasta and Aravis and countless others — was made for. The Narnia that we love (and the Lion we long for) is merely a “shadowland” of the Narnia that is to come. “The new one [is] a deeper country” — more real than we could ever imagine. A unicorn (of course!) sums up what everyone realizes: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” (emphasis mine)
These days, filled, as they always are, with uncertainty, doubt and worry, cannot make us long for that ‘far country’ any less. In fact, we nearly inevitably desire that better place, the more perfect world with increasing urgency. Take heart. Belonging awaits. The Lion has triumphed. Another story is about to commence. You have only to believe in the One who was sent. The One Who has established a place where you do belong.