Made to Stand-Out Where We Belong

"Where are you from?"

I pause, hand outstretched mid thrust. It is not met in the familiar greeting and we do not shake. His question and my lack of an answer hang there between us. I never know what to say here, my internal dialogue begins. What is the right answer?

Initially, when people begin to question my ethnicity, I am confused and reply with, "Texas?", but always with an unsure, emphasis on some imagined question mark on the end.
"No. No, I mean where are your parents from?" Again, my confused and unsteady response is an affirmative of, "Also Texas...?". Eventually, frustrated with the obliqueness of my answers they just go for it: "I mean are you ___?" The guess is rarely the same. I, apparently, have a face or features or color that do not reveal their origin. And, though these questions seem innocent enough, they stir something within me and I begin to understand that I am different

I have never been one to want to 'fit-in'. But known is something I have desperately longed for. You see, the face I bear is ambiguous - I long for familiar. My skin darkens and fades with each season - I long for permanence. To remain one or the other – not halfway to both. At the start of each day comes my desire to identify as something concrete and yet I meet peculiar eyes in my reflection. "Where are you from?" begins to mean: Where do you belong...

I have struggled with this concept of "belonging". The world tells me to "fit-in" for the sake of homogeny. "Different" can be unnerving; offensive, even. However, I sense my Lord delights in the uniqueness the world sometimes fights against. Because by design, I am, literally, one of a kind. And, I wonder if there isn't a sort of symbiosis between being made to stand-out yet with an unmistakable desire to belong. There is a certain serenity in fellowship, specifically in Christian fellowship. This concept of 'koinonia' is, or at least should be, one of the most significant blessings given to us, in Christ. And yet, I sense many struggle to experience this sense of belonging, as I do. How do we prioritize, even protect, our uniqueness, while at the same time, prioritizing and protecting our fellowship?

I do not have a good answer here. I only know what I have been shown and privileged to experience. I have wise friends who long to see the diverse church unified and they do the hard work to this end. Friends who embrace "other" as readily as they embrace same. And I wonder if maybe that is the secret to this. Embracing more. Ourselves and others. Embracing what makes us different while literally, physically embracing one another, because, church, in reality - we are one. And, we do belong. You and I belong, here. 

I suspect I will continue to struggle with feeling like I belong. But maybe today I can do something to fight against alienation by actively seeking to make others feel welcomed. While celebrating their uniqueness. Recognizing what makes them special. And, appreciating different. Because, isn't there something so beautiful about standing-out where we belong?


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