Every once in a while in life, you might find yourself full of uncertainties of where you’re supposed to be.
It’s during these times I quote a movie about a beauty pageant contestant.
When I was in high school, my sister and I really loved quoting a line from the movie Beautiful. The movie itself wasn’t bad, but I’m pretty sure we liked just this one line more than we liked the actual movie. It stars Minnie Driver as Mona, a woman who spends her life caring about not much more than beauty pageants. There’s a part in which this cute little girl named Vanessa (who is actually Mona’s daughter, but Mona can’t let anyone know that, otherwise she couldn’t compete in pageants) begins connecting a few dots and looks Mona in the eyes and says, “I just want to know where I belong.”
It hits you right in the heart.
I think it’s easy for a lot of us to feel like Vanessa sometimes. Life can be so big, and we are so small, and suddenly you can find yourself spinning around and around and not sure where to go or where you best fit in. It can be exciting, frustrating and downright frightening all at once.
I had a tremendous problem with this in college. I went to four different colleges in four years. I started at Texas A&M, transferred to UNT for a semester, transferred back to A&M for a year, transferred to SMU for a semester, transferred to TCU for a semester (worst semester of my life) and then transferred back to SMU for all of my senior year. It.was.draining. College was rough for me, and other than when I was at A&M, I never truly felt like I was a part of any of the schools. I frequently found myself saying, I just want to know where I belong.
I remember when the end of last school year was approaching, and I was looking for a new job, I had no idea what the future held. I didn’t know what my next step was supposed to be. I had no answers when people asked me what I was going to do instead of teach. I had no answers for myself when I wondered the very same thing. I had the constant thought, I just want to know where I belong.
My lease for my apartment is up in December, and for a variety of reasons, I’m not planning to renew again. The problem is, though, that I have no idea where I’m going to live. I want to feel safe—the kind of safe that doesn’t require undercover cops to “hide” each morning in gas station parking lots near you because the crime in the area has gotten so bad. I want to be able to go running each morning and not have to pray for protection the entire way until I can at least get on the other side of the highway. But I also need something affordable. And it seems the safer places are always pricier. I also don’t want to be so far away from people that it’s hard to connect. It’s been somewhat of a discouraging task. I just want to know where I belong.
To add to that, I’ve been struggling with a decision involving where I want to go to church. I’ve been at my church for almost 10 years—with a brief year or so period that I went elsewhere—and I really love it, yet I still don’t feel like I’m truly part of it. I show up every Sunday, and I see some familiar faces, but I don’t feel like many people actually know me there. I’ve tried different ways of getting involved, but I don’t want to hear anymore that I need to join the young adults group (I’m 30, not 24) or the singles group (I don’t come to church to talk about being single, to hang out with people exactly like me or to pick up a man). I’ve attended another church the past two weeks and am trying to discern if it’s where I’m supposed to be. I want to feel like part of a church community—to feel like I belong. I just want to know where I belong.
The more I wonder this about a number of things, though, the more I hear this truth repeating in my head: It’s not where you are—it’s who you are. Sure, the place you are or the people you are around often impact you in big ways, but they don’t have to change who you are. Wherever it is you’re called to—whether it’s a new church, a new school, a new job, a new neighborhood, a new relationship, a new community of friends, a new place you find yourself hanging out at a lot—is a place where you are also called to be yourself.
It can be challenging when you’re trying to figure out where you belong, but it’s also comforting to know you don’t have to be anyone other than you—the you you were created to be regardless of where you are or what your circumstances may be. Wherever I’m living at the end of the year, I’ll be Natalie there. Whatever church community I’m a part of, I’ll be Natalie there. Whatever friend circles I form throughout my life, I’ll be Natalie there. Whatever (if any) man sweeps me off my feet and wins my heart forever, I’ll be Natalie there. Whatever happens anywhere and everywhere, I’ll be Natalie there.
Because He made me Natalie, and the only place I truly need to be concerned about belonging is in His arms, and everything else will fall into place as it should. With Him, everything makes sense when nothing makes sense.
And I know just where I belong.