The Quest for True Belonging by Phillip Fields
I am longing for something I have not enjoyed in a long time.
Something really important is missing in my life.
This is really hard for me to admit, considering that I make a living helping people with their relationships.
I am uncomfortable sharing because I expect to hear the typical Christian responses:
Retreat -- nobody says anything.
Reprove -- somebody tells me what I am doing wrong.
Refer -- somebody tells me where I can find professional help.
Nevertheless, I can't stay silent about this big hole in my life any longer.
I CAN'T FIND CONNECTION! REAL COMMUNITY!
I have not experienced lasting, meaningful, authentic connection since 1999.
There's a hopelessness in my heart that is tired of trying to find a place to belong.
I HAVE TRIED...
Countless churches -- denominational, non-denominational, seeker friendly, crazy charismatic, even revivalist;
Christian gatherings -- in houses, barns, businesses, coffee shops, and surprisingly, one on the internet; and
I have even tried no church at all.
Frankly, I am in an 18 year relationship drought!
I moved my family two times across the country chasing after a place in the move of God.
I put all of my resources and all of my energy into building, supporting, and expanding churches.
Here's a list of the all the positions I've held in churches and ministry organizations:
I have been a dean, assistant pastor, youth pastor, senior leader, counselor, outreach director, deacon, elder, parking lot attendant, and even janitor.
I have volunteered, attended prayer meetings, had worship experiences, short term missions, countless church services, revivals, small groups of many varieties, participated in programs, ran programs, hosted programs, created programs to run programs, and the list goes on...
Bottom line...if the dang doors of the church were open I was there!
I invested more hours in the church than I did my own family at times (my choice, my fault).
Just because you go to church, volunteer for a church, or work for a church, it doesn't guarantee that you will find or experience connection at church.
Don't get me wrong...
I AM NOT BLAMING THE CHURCH FOR MY LACK OF CONNECTION.
I am simply saying I didn't find the longing of my heart there.
Sadly, I am burned out on trying to find connection in the four walls of a church.
It gets even more sensitive here, but I have even failed to find community in my friendships.
Now understand me here...I do have a few really good friends, but I don't have community.
I don't have a tribe, and I am not sure where I fit.
I have tried to find connection through getting involved in peoples lives.
I ran after belonging, trying to please people and make them feel special -- making what was important to them important to me.
I have sown many hours into spending time trying to fit into friend circles, but feel like I come away staring at the party from the front yard through the front window.
Can you believe that after 34 years in the ministry, countless personal encounters with God, engaging in hours and hours of counseling, doing deep emotional work with people in the most sensitive areas of their lives and bearing my soul to multitudes of people; I can't say I have meaningful connection in a healthy community?
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!
It's like a friend of mine said a couple of years ago at a men's breakfast, "I feel spiritually unemployed!"
Anyone else feel this way?
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Why does togetherness elude me?
Connection is the exception, not the norm.
I, like many others, have learned to do life alone.
CASE IN POINT:
I took on the massive project of remodeling our basement, AND guess who is helping me? NOBODY. I had to go to Home Depot trying to load some very bulky heavy metal material onto a cart. The wheels on the cart are sliding, the material is flopping and I am wrestling with it as if my life depends on it. Why am I doing this ALONE? Because I would rather try alone and fail, than risk asking someone for help.
The problem is that there is an ache in my soul that I have been ignoring and hiding for years.
It's not because I don't try hard enough to connect with others, or because I lack self awareness.
I am stuck in this pattern, because, I have hidden my heart's desire, hoping that someone would come after me.
All of my efforts to care for others has left me empty of the one thing I need more than any other -- to feel connected.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF ME?
I am a guy who will work until he hurts to take care of others and ignore my needs in the process. The hard-working, over-responsible drive has hidden my heart’s desire. Most people see my compassion for others. But I did such a great job of disguising my true self through service that my heart built walls of self-preservation and self-protection. I can give all day, but I struggle to receive.
My struggle is the result of hiding my desire to connect, because I was trying to prove to myself and others that I did not need what I was giving away.
WHAT DO I REALLY WANT?
I want what everyone needs.
I long for a relationship with others who absolutely delight in me.
I am looking for others who will fight for what is best for me.
I need to connect with people who make togetherness about doing life together, not building a project or an organization.
I want someone to recognize the ugliest part of me as the beginning point for acceptance.
I am after finding relationships that call out the greatness stored up in me by the goodness of God.
I want friendships that last through trials and tests of life.
Finally...I want someone to call me on my stuff, because they believe in me!
My New Year's Resolution for 2018 is to go after true belonging and healthy connection.
Here's the kind of belonging I'm going after, as defined by Brene' Brown:
“Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
I'm starting my quest with the courage to first find acceptance in who I really am in the context of God's love for me.
And vulnerable enough to present my authentic self to the people around me, knowing that my true identity lies in who I am becoming, not who I've become.
Who wants to join me?
If you feel more disconnected than connected contact me @ www.BeCourageousCoaching.com.
I would like to hear your story.
Let's walk this out together!