My Need to Belong

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The wounds I learned to operate from early on in life were the ones that screamed, “You don’t belong. You’re not enough.” It sounds ridiculous. I come from a stable middle class white American family; I should have always known where I fit. Yet I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like I’d missed the invitation to the party of the year.

Maybe a counselor would tell me it came from being the youngest grandchild, left in the yard alone wondering where the others had gone to play without me. Maybe it was the half-brother who stopped coming around when I was little. There was always this ache inside missing the brother I never knew, wondering was it a little bit my fault?

When I think of my childhood I’ve always wondered why I gravitated toward a spiritual life when it wasn’t a norm in our home. I asked for a Bible and poured over the King James words nestled between the lacy covers of this mysterious book. I latched onto a faith community as a teenager like it was the long-awaited life raft that would save me from the sinking ship of feeling like an outsider.

And yet … I didn’t quite fit with the church kids who knew all the answers either. I picked up the lingo quickly, but I wasn’t quite a member of their club. I clung to Jesus but never quite felt like I was in with his people. So, I spent my life trying harder. Maybe if I went into the ministry, I’d finally belong?

In the year and a half I lived in South Asia, I was brutally aware of my loneliness. Some people who said they would stay in touch weren’t there for me when I reached out to them in the depths of my anxiety. There were the few family and friends that were the constant safety net to my falling. They messaged me and held out prayers. I knew in my heart I wasn’t alone. And yet I felt so utterly cast out.

The first time I video-chatted with a spiritual director I was sure she could hear my heart beating into the computer microphone. I was so nervous about what she would say, what she would think of me. Would she judge me for doing this God-thing all wrong? I talked to her about my inability to find God in prayers full of words, so I’d turned to silent prayer. And still I couldn’t find what I was searching for. She mentioned the Enneagram; asked if I knew my type. I laughed, because I’d just finally started reading The Sacred Enneagram. I was just beginning to explore what it means to be a Type Six.

I’d read about how the Six looks for support outside of herself, wanting to belong and be secure. Chris Heuertz says that for the Six, “ … their basic fear is that they will be lost or won’t have the support they need to find their way … this fear drives sixes to ensure they have the support structures, systems, and leadership required to feel safe.”

Gulp.

She looked at me with new compassion in her eyes as she grabbed a book to read what it feels like to be a Type Six. My nervous laughter told her that I agreed with every bit of the description. She nodded knowingly and told me I didn’t have to keep looking to everyone else and keep heaping on new spiritual practices to show me how to find God. She told me maybe “find” wasn’t the right word anyway and that it was something that already belonged to me. We breathed together, sat in silence together, and chose to believe God was as close as our breath.

“When we turn down the inner distractions and learn to listen to our breath, our body, our instincts, and the voice of God, we are able to hear what we’ve always known: that we are enough, that we have enough, and that God is enough,” says Heuertz.

A couple weeks later I stumbled upon the Sleeping at Last podcast and blog where singer and composer Ryan O’Neal is creating a song for each Enneagram type. I lay on my bed weeping as I listened to the Six song over and over. Someone else understood what it was like to live inside my head, with my doubts and my fears.

I learned how the Six’s holy idea and virtue, the parts that “express who we were always created to be” (Heurtz) are Faith and Courage. Tears came anew when O’Neal talked about how the Six is always looking for a place to be safe but that we actually can become the safe place for others.

“I want to believe—no I choose to believe—that I was made to become a sanctuary.” I saw the emptiness I’ve always felt inside in a new way, as an impetus to open myself up for others who need a place to belong. I can hold out my tiny candle of faith for others who might need a light along the way.

Maybe this need to belong was created in me for a reason, so I’d be ready when Jesus came along to fill it.

Maybe we’re all stumbling around with our empty places and wounds, unaware that we already belong fully to God and to each other.

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Nicole T Walters
I am a writer who lives somewhere in the tension between wanderlust and rootedness.I currently make my home in Georgia with my husband and two children but have lived in and left parts of my heart in the Middle East and South Asia. I write to help people create space to listen to God, learn from others, and lead lives that love at NicoleTWalters.com. I have authored essays in several books and my writing has appeared in places like CT Women, Fathom, Red Letter Christians, and (in)courage. I am a regular contributor at here SheLoves Magazine and The Mudrooom and am a member of the Redbud Writers Guild.
Nicole T Walters
Nicole T Walters

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