The longing to belong.
The longing to be loved.
The longing deep within.
Everyone wants to belong.
Band Geeks Belong
Not fitting in comes easy to me. Or at least the feeling that I don’t fit in comes easy to me. I can fake fitting in with the gang well enough. I learned how to do that over years of awkwardness and being on the outside when it came to the cool kids. Who knows, maybe they felt like they didn’t really belong, too.
It’s easy to feel that way. You’re in a group that largely does one thing, let’s call it X. In fact, X is part of the group identity. But you don’t do X. You do Y. By not doing X, are you no longer part of the group?
In high school band, almost everyone played a wind instrument. There were sixty band members and fifty of them played either a woodwind or brass instrument. Flutes, trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones (yay me!), even the lone tuba player. Fifty out of sixty played something that required blowing into a mouthpiece.
What about the other ten? They were the percussion section, the drummers. Yet even though they did not fall into the group’s majority by playing wind instruments, not a single person thought they weren’t part of the band. Besides, they were drummers. You can’t get much cooler than that.
Do you have an image that automatically comes to mind when you think of people from England? (“Pip pip, cheerio, fancy a spot of tea?”) Or perhaps Bavaria? (“Liebchen, have you seen my lederhosen?”)
What comes to mind when you think of an introvert or extravert? (“I need to be alone” vs. “Hey, let’s get everyone together in the same place!”)
What comes to mind when you think of women? Of men? What about Christian women or Christian men?
The problem with stereotypes is that they are not necessarily true, not for the group nor for individuals within that group.
If you are an introvert in a family full of extraverts, you are still a member of the family. You’d be invited to weddings and birthday parties (assuming that’s what your family did), help out when others are in need (assuming yours is the type of family that does that), and so on.
And for people who insist women and men, particularly Christian women and men, must conform to stereotypes, the same thing goes. The stereotypes might be wrong (they often are) and even if they are grounded somehow in reality they still are not definitive. Let’s say that again.
Stereotypes are not definitive.
They may not even be true.
And when they are applied to group identity, they can exclude. Maliciously and hurtfully, they can exclude. Like this video, or the assertion (below) about falling uteruses:
In the 19th Century people thought that women riding trains were at risk of their uteruses flying out of their bodies (Here’s What People Used To Think Would Happen To Women’s Bodies During Train Travel), or that women engaging in sports was a sign of degeneracy, and that competitive actions could lead to sterility or at least passing along degenerate characteristics to their children. (The Myth of the Falling Uterus: Where did the myth that a woman’s uterus would fall out if she participated in sports come from?) The result? Women were banned or strongly discouraged from taking part in social and professional endeavors open to men.
Bad science leading to mistaken social practices is one thing. But does this really happen in the Body of Christ, the Church that God has called together through the Holy Spirit?
Yes, and it has for millennia.
Does the stereotypical high school band member play a wind instrument? Yes, at least in my high school band. Does that mean someone who doesn’t play a wind instrument is not a true member of the band? Don’t tell that to the percussionists, nor to the rest of us. We need them and they need us. That’s how bands exist. It’s the same in the Body of Christ.
Paul dealt with exclusive thinking and practices 2000 years ago, as he explored the reality of belonging to God by analogizing to the human body:
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12:15-21.)
It is because of this diversity – this lack of conforming to stereotype – that we are able to truly be one Body in the Spirit of God.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. …
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27.)
You think you don’t fit in because you don’t conform to a stereotype someone else has laid on you? Jesus says you do. You are part of him because you are a part of the Body of Christ. There is no stereotyping here. There is only belonging. As Jesus said when he used another analogy, that of a shepherd and sheep:
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30.)
Where you belong is with Jesus and that’s where he longs for you to belong as well, now and forever.