Finding a Place to Belong
By the time I had reached my late teens I had lived in three different countries under the roofs of three separate relatives. I was born in Honduras and was raised there by my grandmother. Then, at the age of seven I moved to America to live with my mother in Los Angeles. At 15 I moved yet again, to live in Canada.
Having such a disjointed childhood left me with a broken and incomplete sense of self-identity and little self- worth. I often felt abandoned and alone. Moving from Honduras, where there was little more than dirt to play with, to the culture of LA where money seemed to determine everything skewed my understanding of happiness and success.
Disillusioned by the broken relationships and communities around me, I quickly appropriated the world’s understanding that finding a place to belong would always be a matter of becoming someone worthy of belonging. I also learned that becoming that kind of man would require both the right possessions and activities under my belt.
Happiness appeared to be the prize at the end of a race to belong. I feared being rejected by people constantly, and felt empty on the inside, hoping that joy would come once I felt secure and in control of the relationships in my life.
It was out of this hope that I began to fill my life with endless activities and people. I’d work hard at my job to make money, spend money quickly to get involved in activities such as kayaking or billiards, and make friends at every opportunity. My plan had worked and by my early 20’s I found myself popular and successful, yet still unhappy. I was doing well financially for my age and had money to spend. I had many acquaintances and people in my life, many of whom loved me and cared for me. Yet, I still felt empty.
I remember the myriad of times I would find myself in the midst of a crowd of 40 or 50 people I knew. Many of them would be what most people consider close friends, and yet amidst them I would feel completely and utterly alone. I couldn’t seem to believe that people really welcomed me, and thus I could never trust people and found myself feeling unfulfilled and unloved.
The realization that the presence of the right people and the right things in my life wasn’t enough to fill the space inside of me was the beginning of a dark and frightening downward spiral.
I had been labeled as the good kid who got caught up with the bad crowd a lot since childhood and it was at this point in my life that I really lived up to the name. Even as I got involved in a lifestyle that included the abuse of drugs and alcohol, I didn’t feel like I could identify with the crowd that I partied with. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine myself fitting in with my newly acquired Christian friends either.
My Christian friends seemed happy and satisfied with life but I often reduced this to a matter of their positive human relationships or circumstances. I often told myself, “Of course I’d believe in God and be thankful if I had that kind of girlfriend or this kind of job.” Religion was just part of what I considered the good life, something I could only ever strive for or dream of.
As the dark depression I had been living in continued to reign, I began to feel more and more hopeless. Then, an ex-girlfriend of mine who was a Christian invited me to church. I agreed to attend a service because I couldn’t find a reason not to. It was that day that I first heard about the fact that I was a sinner but that God loved me regardless, and had actually sent His perfect son, Jesus, to die for my sins.
I liked the idea of this God who gave up everything for me and decided that this would be a religion that might work for me. I began calling myself a Christian but I hadn’t actually begun a relationship with Jesus. After learning about God, I expected Him to fulfill my every selfish desire, and finally give me the relationships and things I thought I needed in order to feel like I belonged.
However, I spent the next year experiencing increasing heartbreak and loneliness. Everything I owned and had achieved satisfied me less and less, and I began to think that life was no longer worth living. One day I grew desperate and decided to go driving in a way that would end my pain once and for all. I took corners at twice or three times the speed limit and drove like an absolute madman. God protected me though and eventually I found myself in the parking lot of a church, crying out to the God I had met a year earlier to save me.
That day at church I confessed to God that none of it, none of what was on this earth would ever satisfy me. I now believe that God had to allow me to come to a point of absolute and utter desperation before I was willing to accept the gift of His son. I finally saw myself and my life realistically. I had lived a life where the only thing I strived for was to belong to a group of people, a life focused on selfish gain. Blinded by my greed and emptiness, I could never recognize God’s good and perfect provision of himself. God had already provided his Son and that was more than enough.
It was then that I truly accepted Jesus Christ and finally understood what my Christian friends had been trying to tell me all along. Being accepted by God wasn’t about becoming a good enough person first. I could never do that one my own. Accepting Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf, and committing my life to walk in His presence was the only thing that could restore my relationship with God.
I also learned that life was not all about me. God saved me from myself so I could be a blessing to people. I have not stopped thanking him for that ever since. I now enjoy rich relationships, a satisfying career and activities that I truly love because I know they are not the root of my joy, but only the added bonuses to the gift of belonging to the One who created me.
You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.