When I was a teenager, I was always questioning my social status. Do I belong? Am I accepted? I was constantly on the lookout for little signs that I was “in.”
Get invited to the party—I guess I’m in.
Not asked to the dance—I guess I’m out.
On student council—I guess I’m in.
Don’t understand the inside joke—I guess I’m out.
Do I belong? Am I accepted? I looked to my peers for answers and based my conclusions on how they treated me.
But guess what? My teenage judgment wasn’t always spot on. In fact, it was often just plain wrong.
For example, the kids I hung out with at school didn’t invite me to weekend parties because they knew that I would be a total fish out of water among the weed and wine coolers. So, I figured I was “out.” But looking back, I realize they liked me. How do I know? Because they literally told me so. They invited me to eat junk at Del Taco and shop for jeans at Wet Seal. But they didn’t invite me to join them at those parties NOT to viciously exclude me but because they spidey-sensed that I would probably wither into a corner and leave early. And they were very right. But it didn’t stop me from concluding that I was “out” of their circle.
…fast-forward 30-something years…
The other day, my 6-year-old son Charlie said something that caught me totally off guard. To give you some context, earlier that morning, my husband and I had to give Charlie a hearty lecture and time-out for disrespectful behavior.
Hours later that same day, Charlie looked up from his Legos and stated, “Mommy, when you punish someone, it’s like saying ‘Get out of here. You don’t belong in this family.'”
Needless to say, it stopped me in my tracks.
To him, punishment was a sign—remember those signals we’re constantly looking for?—that he was on the “outs” of our family. Just like I habitually did when I was younger, he misread the signal.
I sat next to him and said, “Charlie, I know that getting punished makes you feel like we don’t want you here. But that’s not true. Daddy and I correct you because we love you. God spoke about this. Do you know what He said? He said that He corrects the people He loves. When God tells you what you’re doing wrong, that’s a sign you are His child—that you DO belong to Him. When Daddy and I discipline you, it means that you most definitely ARE a part of our family.”
As adults, we wonder if God accepts us. If we really belong to Him and if there’s a place for us in the church. We try to read the signals.
Didn’t get invited to coffee with the other ladies from the branch—I guess I’m out.
Not getting ordained—I guess I’m out.
Sinned that same sin again—I guess I’m out.
God allowed a bad thing to happen to me—I guess I’m out.
Let’s not misread God. He told us that when we repent of our sins and give our lives to Jesus Christ, we become part of His family. We belong. We are welcomed in.
Even when we don’t fit in or have a lot of friends… (John 15:19)
Even when trials come… (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Even when we mess up again… (Luke 5:32)
Even when God takes us down a notch… (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Make no mistake. God loves you and wants you in His family.
Hardship, ridicule, and correction are the portion of believers. But so are love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. Our portion includes God’s Holy Spirit living inside us, guiding us. It includes the promise of eternal life in heaven, where we will forever belong and never be cast out.
So, welcome to the family! You belong here.
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.