This post is part one of our ongoing series about identity - what your identity is, where it comes from, and how to let God be the one that shapes it, really.
It was 2004, and it was my first day of high school. Fashions were questionable, track suits were in, and at least 3 trucker hats had already been confiscated from the lunchroom. And despite living in a small town and having just come up from the middle school with my entire class, it was lunchtime and I didn’t know where to sit.
I’m 99% sure every single one of us has some version of the story. Doesn’t matter if it was the first day of elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or in the workplace, but there has been a time where each one of us has felt like there wasn’t an open seat for us.
And that feeling is pretty much the worst.
So here's an uncomfortable question: Do you feel like that in your everyday life?
Do you ever feel like there’s nowhere that’s meant for you to sit, like there’s not a space at the table for you? Or, perhaps, even more disorienting, do you feel like you don’t belong at the table at all? Do you feel like you don’t have anything to offer even if you did get a chance to sit down?
I’ve felt this way many times throughout my life and honestly still do with more frequency than I really care to recall. And yet despite the commonality of this experience, I think we all still make believe that we are the only ones that feel this way. But when we hear someone, anyone, share that they feel the same, a connection springs to life, almost as if we’ve been tossed a life preserver and we feel like there is a ship out there somewhere that can haul us in. Really, truly, we stop feeling so alone.
Do you believe there’s a place for you? That’s really what it comes down to.
It can be a hard question to look at there in black and white.
Whenever I’m questioning whether I feel like I belong or not I love to read 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. In this letter Paul is talking about the spiritual gifts. I find it all comforting, but this verse is my favorite:
But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. - 1 Corinthians 12:18
It's so matter of fact. It is... as He intended.
All the Puzzle Pieces
Have you ever done a huge puzzle? Every Christmas at my parent's house they do 1000+ piece puzzles. It's insanity. I am not a puzzle person, so I get overwhelmed just looking at the jumble when they first dump it out of the box.
Inevitably there is a face in there somewhere, or a light, or some other distinguishing characteristic that jumps out first. It's the easiest two to recognize amongst all the other pieces, and placing them together is an easy quick win.
But then there's still 998 more pieces to go.
And every piece, even that awkward bit of green that could go literally anywhere (Christmas puzzles literally have so many evergreens) has a spot that's all it's own. The puzzle will not be complete unless every piece, awkward little green and all, are nestled tightly into the grooves made for them.
That verse in 1 Corinthians makes me think of those puzzles because though God gives us different gifts, the puzzle is just as incomplete missing any one of us. It may seem like more fun to be a face piece or part of a lantern, but where does your eye go in a puzzle missing a piece?
The hole where the piece is missing.
Doesn't matter where it is. Doesn't matter if it's part of the action or just the background.
The whole gets defined by its holes.
I firmly believe this is the way it is with the church as well. Every member is needed. Every member has a place, just as intentional as a puzzle piece, that they are called to fill.
So how do we live that?
1 Trust your puzzle piece spot is out there.
The NUMERO UNO theme of this series on Identity is that we have got to give God the benefit of the doubt for things we don't see. That is trust. That is opening the door to radical relationship with Him.
Just because you don't see your place right now, live like it's out there. Make your default frame of mind an adventure with God and not a dreary march to nowhere when you don't see the path. Start each day with the prayer
"God, I have no idea what you're doing. But I can't wait to see what it is."
... and avoid the mental litany of self deprecation...
"There's no place for me. I don't belong here. No one needs me." (Umm, LIE.)
This thinking is 1.) a lie 2.) a copout 3.) the easy thing to do, and you're better than that. It's hard to trust. It's hard to great each day with hope when you just keep feeling out of place. But it's also brave. And you have it in you to be terribly brave. I know you do.
2. Expect it to take time.
Putting a puzzle together is a long process, and all the pieces sure as heck don't get placed at the same time. In our family a 1000 piece puzzle might take a month and that's a drop in the ocean compared to what we're talking about here. Maybe we give God some grace in the timing of it all, shall we?
I know, it's not easy. But what's worth doing that is?
3. Rejoice and find hope when other people find their spot.
Competition just totally ruins the whole puzzle thing. Can you imagine puzzle pieces competing for a spot? Seriously, I want you to imagine little jealous bits of cardboard being fake and giving backhanded compliments trying to shove themselves into the wrong spot.
First of all, weird, second of all, probably painful, third of all, just why?
Our common mantra needs to be, "A Place for Everyone." We need to actively desire for everyone to find their perfect spot, because frankly that's an aspect of loving our own spot.
Instead of defaulting to jealousy, we need to default to praise. Any feelings of jealous need to get taken to Christ and given to Him to wrestle. Seriously, if you struggle with this, (umm, me, so this is preaching to myself) you need to accept God's help with the jealousy. He doesn't want that for you. He wants you to see the beauty of everyone being where they are as He intended.
Because that means you too.