Square One Part VI: are you part of the secret club?
You can't escape it.
It bombards you at every turn and is embedded into your heart from the time you're born.
It's the need to belong. We're communal creatures and we long to know that to someone... somewhere... we belong. Mostly we just want to be a part of a club that meets in a treehouse and has a top secret password like "open sesame." But for those of us not fortunate enough to get in with the cool kids, we just want to know we're loved without condition.
Whether we struggle with image, popularity, wealth or accomplishment, our natural inclination is to seek our worth in something external. To look to others for affirmation. Love isn't something we can comfortably live without.
When we lose it, we're brokenhearted. When we gain it, we're invincible.
It motivates the most noble and the most heinous of acts. It's powerful enough to manipulate both action and thought. So we seek it out. The cruel twist is that our sense of self-worth is tied so heavily to it.
If we see our worth in our ability to do great things, we're vulnerable to the temptation of underhanded deals and "don't ask, don't tell" agreements. If we find our worth in our looks, we're constantly battling with an obsession over our body or other people's perception of it. If we see our worth in our wealth, it's difficult to view relationships as anything other than a means to a pot of gold. In each situation, it's a daily fight for what we believe will earn the love and respect we crave.
We're often playing a game of emotional roulette.
One day you might be loved dearly. The next, your lover will turn against you. Therefore, our lives evolve into a delicate balancing act, concealing, revealing or fabricating parts of ourselves as we see fit in order to maintain the most loving relationships at one time as possible. If one relationship gets sacrificed for two, we net positive and win.
... at least thats what we do when we're missing Christ.
Without Christ, we're left with nothing but a fickle, selfish love that is only a shadow of the love of Christ. It may be well-intentioned but it is so easily perverted or self-serving. We can neither give a fuller love nor receive it. Thankfully, there's respite from such shallow affection - the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christ's love overflows in their hearts, it overwhelms and pours out to those around them. As Christians, we're able to love more purely and more constantly than those without the love of Christ in them. Within the community of our Christian family, we can find belonging and worth because we love each other with the love of Christ.
But be careful! Sadly, I know many who could tell stories of being let down by people in the Church. And what's new? We're human. We're not claiming that Christians have life figured out. We're not claiming that we won't screw up. We claim that Christ has power over life and that Christ never screws up. So while we may take comfort in the community of believers, we still cannot place our worth in their hands.
But in Jesus we can place all of our worth. Scripture says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Belonging couldn't be more assured. We have an eternal place in His arms and by His side. Though we may be let down by unbeliever and believer alike, we'll never be let down by the Lord. What's so great about an eternal position of belonging and worth is that when we belong - when we don't have to worry about whether or not we will come home without family or friends - we are able to become everything that we long for because we approach those things from a new perspective. No longer are we begging for them. No longer do we need them to survive. We're already satisfied. They're simply the cherry on top.
In our relationships with others, we're able to accept love but not be empty when we don't receive it. We're able to give love out of an abundance, not out of a deficit. We're able to walk with confidence, knowing we're accepted and loved. Though we may be hurt by those we love, ultimately, we're not defeated.
What does this world hold for us? It's not where we belong. What worth do we derive from it? They don't define our identity.
There's only one person's opinion that matters in our lives - Jesus Christ's. And when there's only one person's opinion that matters, there's only one person we're aiming to please. Simple.