You don’t belong here.
This has long been a theme in my life. As a white American child growing up in Haiti, I felt it, You don’t belong here. Even in Haiti among the different missionary groups, each group keeping to themselves, You don’t belong here.
Living in Eastern Kentucky, attending a small country school with the name Esther Picazo. Every time my name was called to take roll, it was there, as the teacher stumbled over how to pronounce Picazo, You don’t belong here.
Maybe the only time in my childhood that I didn’t feel that singling out was when we lived in Bush Alaska, in a town that was about half Y’upik Eskimo and half white Americans. Somehow, the culture of that little town made me feel welcome, even if it was only for a couple years.
But then college, as I walked past a group of tall, tanned, blond girls, all talking about fashion and their latest dates, I felt it radiating out to me, You don’t belong here.
My time in Chile was more of the same, as I struggled to communicate in my very poor Spanish, a look of surprise and then, Oh, You don’t belong here!
Moving to our little city here in Eastern Tennessee, everywhere you go, there are pre-existing groups of friends. Polite, but still holding up the invisible sign, You don’t belong here.
And over time, you learn how to make your own groups of friends, you carve out your own little niche. Create your own little cliques. A fortress where you can stand and say, This is where I belong! Though sometimes the walls of that fortress are a little shaky. Sometimes they don’t withstand time. Sometimes those friend groups dissolve. Sometimes the cliques reform and suddenly you are not on the inside, but are left out in the cold, You don’t belong here.
And sometimes I forget. I think it’s just me. I’m the only one that feels this way. Everyone else belongs. I’m the only outsider.
Except. If you listen to enough people. Really listen. You find out. Most people feel this way at some time or another.
Many years ago, during a worship service at our church, God gave me a vision. I was standing in heaven, before the throne of God and my knees were shaking and I was overawed. And God spoke in this thundering voice and he said, What right do you have to be standing here? And I almost panicked. Surely this was the end. I had no right to be here. I was so sinful and imperfect. But then, I looked at myself, and I realized that I was entirely covered, head-to-toe in a white gown, all my imperfections were hidden underneath this gown. And I spoke boldly. I said, I can be here because I’m covered. I’m covered with Jesus’ righteousness. And I showed off the gown. And God smiled his approval. And my fear went away. I knew everything was ok. I could be there. I was welcomed. I belonged.
The last verse to the hymn Solid Rock has been going through my head.
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
And maybe that’s just another reason I love Jesus so much. He claimed me. He paid the price for my sin. He opened up a way for me to be with him and he stands with open arms and says, Come, this is where you belong. With me.