Out of Place Series – Abby’s Story
“You’ve changed in the short time I’ve known you.”
My friend made the observation as we drove up the windy road through the mountains, chatting on our way home from a moms’ night out. I smiled because I knew she meant the statement in a positive way. After over a year living in northern Utah, my walls were finally coming down. I was inviting people into the space in my heart I usually kept guarded. And this was a huge step for me.
Whenever we invite someone into the part of our souls that makes us our unique, one-of-a-kind selves, there is risk, isn’t there? It’s a place where we reveal our quirks, our passions, and even our fears. Sometimes we never arrive at this point, because it’s too scary. I know, because for a long period of my life, the walls never came down. After facing rejection in many forms and on many occasions, my heart became weary and calloused.
I convinced myself that I didn’t need friendship.
But God, being the truth-teller he is, showed me how beautiful friendship can be. He revealed a key truth about friendships that I missed for much of my life. And because I missed it, I faced a lot of heartache.
What friendship can never do
You see, friendship was never intended to affirm me or my sense of belonging.
Friendship was intended to pour out of what I already know: that I belong to an eternal family. A family God saw fit to graft me into before I breathed my first breath. If you’ve accepted Christ, you belong to this family too.
It isn’t until we accept our adoption by him that we will feel accepted anywhere else.
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV
And even after we accept this belonging, there is a tension. There’s a tension because we realize this earth is not our home. There’s a longing for the sons and daughters to be revealed, and for heaven to come down to earth. But until then, we wait with hope.
The tension between resisting and receiving
There’s another tension, too. It’s the tension between the lies the enemy tells us and the truth we know in our hearts. It’s a conflict between resisting and receiving. Our spirit longs to walk in the light, but often, we fall into the darkness of doubt and disbelief.
Our experiences can fuel this doubt. We enter a room where we feel like we don’t belong. We open up to someone new, and instead of feeling welcomed, we feel misunderstood or overlooked.
But when we continue to reach out with the truth about who we are as our foundation, we find connection. Often, it takes time. It takes awkward conversations. But when we find a sister we can exchange stories with over a hot cup of coffee, it’s worth it.
When my friend made her observation that night on the way home from the moms’ night out, it was at a point in my life when I finally accepted who I was as a daughter. For the first time in my life, I felt free. Free to be who God created me to be because I realized I didn’t have anything to lose.
I was transparent and authentic enough with others for them to see who I really was. And through my transparency, I allowed the light in me to shine through. Others could see it, and it made them feel comfortable enough to be their authentic selves too.
A day-by-day decision
Am I always my authentic self? No. Sometimes I still wear a mask. Especially when I’m around people I don’t trust or those who I don’t think will “get me.” But I’m learning. I’m letting God do the leading and he’s taking me to a beautiful place.
And as I continue the journey, he’s showing me that it’s okay to be me. It’s okay to reach out to people who may not reciprocate kindness or warmth. Because my value is not determined by them.
Relationships matter to God, and that’s the only reason I need for them to matter to me too. With each action taken in love, he reminds me where my belonging rests. He reminds me of the name he always uses to refer to me: daughter.
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive these scripture cards and adult coloring pages about belonging in the kingdom of God:
If we want to see God in the midst of our struggles, we have to change the way we look for him. Abby’s new book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God, is filled with insights to help you do so. Abby is a writer, speaker, wife, and mom whose work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, (in)Courage, Crosswalk, and more. Her passion is to empower women to grow in faith, even when life is messy. Abby lives with her husband, three children, and mischievous lab in western Maryland. You can download “The Daughter’s Manifesto” as her free gift to you at abbymcdonald.org.