Her email dropped into my inbox and my mind started to race. Excited by the opportunity, and a deep sense of knowing that this weekend would change my life, I quickly scanned the virtual file cabinet of my mind. What could I offer? For a brief moment, fear was arrested and the possibilities felt endless. I decided. Replied. Sent.
It seemed like a really good idea at the time.
Fear lurks in the strangest corners. Ones filled with passion, energy and life. Those places you think you might possibly have something to give — yet silently wonder if it’s worth anything at all? Suddenly it seems so small.
Where you find a gift, you’ll inevitably find it’s shadow.
One by one the SUVs pulled up to the lakeside cabin bringing together a dozen women from across the country. From the crisp, fresh mountain air, twelve women stepped through an open door not knowing what to expect. How they would be changed. A dozen strangers, deeply gifted; individually impassioned; spiritual; soulful; and arrestingly beautiful. Lets just say experience tells me this is not the best set up for a girls weekend.
But this wasn’t an ordinary girls weekend.
It was God’s weekend.
A weekend ordained, planned, inspired and purposed to bring healing. Hope. To satisfy the hunger of His girls, by bringing together the hands and feet of His Church: His girls.
Imperfect, ordinary, extraordinary women who didn’t know one another would become more than friends. They would be bonded as sisters. He knew this. Yet we were all afraid. Afraid to step out; to risk. Desperately wanting to be known, and yet afraid to be seen.
Saturday morning came quickly and it was my time to lead. To share what God placed on my heart for these women. My offering. Suddenly it felt so small. Insignificant. What in the world was I thinking when I said I would offer this?! A workout? It felt obnoxiously unspiritual, tucked into a weekend of Bible study, reflection, devotion and teaching. So shallow. Stupid. My mind raced. I snuck out of the cabin early in the morning, considering the option to disappear completely. After all, this was my territory and I knew the way home. I walked back to the hill I planned to run. My heart quickened. I thought: This is a mistake. Surely this is a mistake. In fact it’s quite possible – if not probable – that I am a mistake. An imposter they somehow let in, and soon they would all know: I don’t belong.
I felt sick to my stomach.
And yet it was time. Time to give my offering. After I cried a whole mess of big, snotty tears in front of eleven deep, soulful, brave, honest, beautiful strangers — we ran that hill hard.
And I still felt a little foolish. But I kept going. Faster and faster up that hill. Again and again. Reminding myself to keep going. To take one more step. To push harder, reach farther, breathe deeper.
Have you ever felt that way? That feeling that you don’t belong? Like you’re a fraud trying to fit into a life you can’t own, and you’re just waiting to be found out?
I think sometimes we get confused about belonging because it doesn’t look anything like fitting in. It isn’t linked to being like anyone else, doing things the right way, or floating along easy. Belonging is risky. It requires us to be part of something bigger than ourself. It’s about community. It’s about risk and fear and faith and falling into a place that lets you grow and still holds you tight.
It’s true. Honest in its embrace.
But it isn’t easy. In the beginning it feels a whole lot like fear.
Belonging begins when your mind races or your tears fall because fear lurks in the places where your heart beats strong. Where you’re willing to risk being seen for the chance to be known.
It’s a terrifying process to become free. But we were made for it.
The twelve of us strangers became sisters, because we each decided to show up in spite of our fear. Our insecurities. We showed up messy, vulnerable, raw and real. And it changed everything. It changed us.
Belonging often begins feeling a lot like fear, because fear lurks in the shadow of our gifts. Fear hides out in our deepest longings. Tucks away in the places where our heart beats strong. But it’s a shadow. An illusion. A deception masking what is real. Keeping us from what is true: Freedom. A place to belong. The comfort of being seen and known and loved, just as you are.
Where does your heart beat strong? How might you challenge your fear, show up in faith, and find a place of belonging today?
Tammy is a wife, mother, writer, runner, contemplator and soul seeker. She loves kind hearts, twinkly lights, country roads and beautiful words. You can find her blog at tammystrait.com where she writes about life, courage, freedom, connection and living with your whole heart.