To The Girl Who Just Wants To Belong
by valerie cabadonga
...I feel you.
Earlier this year, I found myself in a season of "loneliness" after temporarily stepping down as a (young adults) lifegroup leader. For some unknown reason, the decision have made me feel disconnected from the relationships that I have built from leading the previous year. While some tried to reach out, I was busy building up a wall between them and me as I continue to be clouded by the feeling that I was alone.
You know that feeling when you are surrounded by a group of friends, but you just don't feel like you're in the group? Yeah, that was me. I was in the room but not into the room. I try to muster up all the "extroverted" bones in my body, but connecting seemed more like a job rather than a joy. At the back of my head, I thought "I just really want to belong. But why is this so hard? Why can't I just do it the same as before?" I felt disconnected that even my romantic relationship was affected by it. After doing some due diligence on connecting, at one point in time, it just felt like reaching out was too much of a labor, so I took two more steps backwards which has affected my confidence, my self-esteem and my ability to connect to some extent. And from a person who has been struggling with comparison (another testimony for another day) and belonging for awhile with the usual ups and downs, this felt like too much to deal with.
But, on the first weekend of April 2017, one Sunday morning run by the river has marked the end of this season.
On that weekend, I attended Passionate Conference '17. While all the main sessions were insightful, encouraging and life-changing in their own way, one of my key sessions was the Prayer Pod (if you ever find yourself in this session, bring a whole tissue box for yourself. Three sheets ain't gonna make it, and your make-up? Don't worry about it! It's going to run anyways so might as well cry your eyes out!) One of the things they prayed over me was my identity and self-esteem. At the end of the prayer, one of the two ladies who prayed told me to put a verse that speaks to my heart on my mirror with a lipstick. As I was walking out of the room, I was thinking of Psalms 139:14 (I am fearfully and wonderfully made) and put a pin on the thought as I got my soul ready and rested for the Conference's final session, which was amazing by the way!
The following day, still all hyped up from an amazing conference, I went for a run with my puppy Bruno by the river. While I was runing, my mind started to wander and doubt the prayers that were spoken over me. I kept fighting it off by the doubts got even louder and stronger for every shove I did.
Then, God intervened.
Joy started to fill my whole body. It was so real, overwhelming, apparent and transparent all at the same time that I couldn't help but stop running and start crying. It was then that I have really felt peace (Philippians 4:7) after a long time.
With tears welling up my eyes and streaking down my face, I went off the track and found myself a rock I could sit on by the riverbank. I didn't care what the traffic across me or the people behind would think, I turned up my worship song and just started worshiping - hands up, singing and everything. While I was in a state of worship, God whispered so clearly, and said:
"You are so beautiful, and don't you ever forget that."
I continued to listen and lean in even more as He kept repeating it until it was etched on my heart. Everything was just so real. And, even while writing this now, it's still as real like it was yesterday.
So, I went back home and wrote everything on my journal so I will never forget it. While I was writing, the 'verse-on-the-mirror' thought popped backed to my head and right there and then, I decided to make a monument of this moment - of God's faithfulness, of this breakthrough - just like David did on Genesis 35:14. I may have not placed a pile of stones at the river, but I have an ink on my wrist that serves the same purpose. So that anywhere I go, whatever I do, I will always see and carry the monument with me.
With the whole self-love journey, the Conference experience, the days leading up to this moment and the Psalm 139:14 verse that has now become my phone screensaver, my heart has summed it up to two words, which are now on my wrist. In my own handwriting, the ink says:
Day in and day out, the tattoo reminds me that I have been, I am, and will always be God's first. That my association is to Him. That I belong with Him first. That I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and made in His Image and Likeness (Genesis 1:27).
It has been a constant reminder that I am unique. That I am also God's first - the first and the last Valerie Cabadonga there will ever be. It reminds me that I am complete in Him. That He is mine and I am His.
I am learning that it doesn't matter how many groups I associate and affiliate myself in, if I do not know to whom I belong first, then the feeling of being out of place, outcast, left out and alone will always linger in my heart. That associations has nothing to do with my identity. Whether I am in a relationship or not, I already belong, not just to anyone, but to The One. And since I already belong in Him, there was no need to ask the "identity questions" anymore, because in Him, I know that I am loved, valued, accepted, gifted, provided, set apart and beautiful in the shape and form that He has given me. There was no need to try and fit in anymore, because I was never out of the group. From the beginning, I was already one of His. In His presence. In His very being. I belong to His First.
As I slowly chiseled this in my heart, my wall started to come down, my outlook on life started to shift, and most importantly I have a new-found confidence in Him, in me and taking on my dreams. When there are times I feel challenged with the society's standards or comparing myself with others, this is the monument that I also look back and meditate on.
As I was writing this article, I have also noticed that that word "feel" was used much too often and have come to realize that loneliness is just a feeling. It was never my reality. My reality is that I belong and beloved by God.
And the more I reflected on the events that have transpired and how such revelation have changed my life in 360 degrees, I have come to understand that maybe that season was not a season of loneliness at all. That it was not a season of being alone in the boat. Maybe it was a season of inviting God into the boat in the first place.
In that season, so wallowed up by the feelings of loneliness, I tried to solve things my own way. I pray to God and vented, and once I was done praying, I just got on with the rest of my routine and got busy. I just talked and talked and talked, and I didn't give myself time to listen, or let alone give God the space to speak directly to my heart. It's like I sought for Him, not for His Word, but for just another person to vent to. If there was another important lesson I learnt in that journey, it was that the feeling of loneliness has given me the push to be more intimate with God. Not for His sake, but for mine. For me to get to know Him more, and get to know myself more through Him. To not lose sight of who I am and to whom I belong. I am learning that as much as we can pray and vent to God, we also need an equal amount of time to pray and listen to God. To just let Him do the talking this time. There is a far greater form of comfort hearing God speak in His Presence, than hearing ourselves vent in a time of prayer.