On Belonging

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Where do I belong? It’s a question I’ve asked many times over the course of this journey. It came up whenever I found myself starting something new and unexpected. Facing unfamiliar surroundings.

That happened a lot this past year.

I moved so many times the post office didn’t know how to handle my forwarding requests. Neither did I!

Late July I started out in a simple room in a convent in Mexico City to attend the missionary program’s two-week orientation. My ministry began in a one-room apartment in San Antonio — a place where I felt more alone than in my cabin in the woods. By early November I had changed ministries, and locations — a coworker’s guestroom in the suburbs. Then on to my cousin’s outside of Austin while I awaited news about El Paso, where my heart continued to call me. Not willing to wait until mid December when “permanent” housing would be available, I moved to two different locations in El Paso before finally settling into my little bedroom at Grandview House.

With each move, I’d mindfully set up my personal things, trying to create sacred space as best I could. On my little altar, my special talismans and touchstones offered comfort.

Uprooted so many times, it’s a wonder I could feel grounded at all. Sometimes I’d stand in the middle of a kitchen trying to remember which drawer held the silverware. Or I’d awaken during the night, needing to pee. Disoriented, I’d have to sit up and be fully conscious of my surroundings before I could find the bathroom.

The journey challenged me for sure.

But even in the midst of it, I wrote in my journal:
I am not lost. I have not lost my grounding. I am sure-footed as I walk the trail, feeling my emotions as well as my certainty that I want to follow this path all the way through to the other side. I trust the wisdom and guidance of my heart and Spirit. I trust something deeper and more imaginative than reason.”

Like the migrants and refugees I served in El Paso, I learned what it means to depend on God, to trust in the mystery called “divine providence.”

Primero Dios. The migrants’ favorite saying. Always God came first in their lives. With simple faith they surmounted grueling circumstances. Trusted they’d be given what they needed.

Like them, I found the Universe provided exactly what I needed along the way. Often at the very last minute. Almost as if to sharpen my ability to trust. In God. In myself.

And something else, too. I found that this very loss of control over my circumstances is what led to my freedom. I finally didn’t have to know what was coming next. I didn’t have to figure it out.

Now I’m back “home” in Virginia. Friends ask if I am settled in. I don’t think I ever will be. Settled in. Because home doesn’t feel like where I belong anymore.

So, where do I belong?

That question no longer preoccupies me.

During the course of this journey I have learned what it means to belong to myself. To belong to the God within. I have learned that I belong nowhere — and everywhere. My true home is within God.

And I have come to understand — in a way I didn’t before — that I can never be separated from that “home.” No matter where I find myself.

Once again, John O’Donohue’s poetry resonates:

“At its heart, the journey of each life is a pilgrimage,
Through unforeseen sacred places
That enlarge and enrich the soul.”

And the pilgrimage continues.John ODonohue river flows