I grew up in a multi-racial home.
My father’s side of the family is Palestinian while my mom was born and raised in the South, with Dutch and German roots. To this day, I still question whether or not I fill in those bubbles correctly… you know the demographic ones?
My mother would easily go down as Caucasian, yet since my Dad was directly from the Middle East, I wasn’t sure where that left me. Does it take so many generations before marking Caucasian? Or do I mark the “other” slot? Even then, what do I actually write out next to it? Identity was a constant struggle for me growing up, even into my 20’s and early 30’s.
My maiden name has 11 letters, a few of which were silent, and there is something about throwing a hyphen in there that just seemed to really bring up questions… “What are you?”
As I grew through late elementary school years and into middle and high school, I really started partnering with the lie “I don’t belong”. Having parents with different cultural backgrounds meant we did things a bit differently in our house… okay, maybe a lot different, at least to a teenager!
You see, I didn’t really feel like I one hundred percent belonged in the Arab community, because I actually never even learned to speak Arabic. And although I was born and raised in the United States, I didn’t grow up doing what I thought most of my southern peers did, like attend a place of worship or head to the beach every summer. Don’t get me wrong, I always felt welcomed in both communities, and experienced so much love and kindness poured into me, yet there was that question of, “Who am I really?” “Where do I actually fit in?” “Where do I BELONG”?
While I believe it can be a gift to adapt to many different situations, I also felt like I was an unhealthy version of a chameleon… I could basically be what people wanted me to be to fit into any situation. People pleasing? Check. Keeping the peace? Check. Knowing who and whose I was? Empty Check Box.
The longer the show went on, the deeper the imposter syndrome festered.
As I got into college and became more independent, I felt like I started to grow more into who I was (to be noted, the “whose I was” part was still missing greatly). I felt like I had found my people and started feeling more comfortable in my own skin, for the most part. Again, though, it was not always healthy… I began to partner more with this belief that I could “prove myself into belonging” through performance, which could be an entirely new blog in itself. Let me just tell you, trying to earn your way into community is an exhausting effort, that still often feels unfulfilled.
Then in 2010, when my husband and I got married, I had an experience that triggered my sense of belonging. We were traveling internationally, and as I was going through the security checkpoints, I was pulled to the side (on a few occasions) to have my bags further checked, and to personally get an extra screening. At first I thought maybe it was a liquid substance in my bag or piece of jewelry that triggered it… but then I saw my name was highlighted on a piece of paper. This was pre-determined, with nothing to do with what I was wearing or carrying. My paperwork was still in maiden name at the time. My husband, an Albert, never got stopped any of these times. I felt embarrassed. Ashamed. Pre-judged and quite frankly, a bit angry that I would experience this based on the origin of my last name and nothing to do with what was on the inside of me.
I have family members and even friends who have experienced things on a much deeper level, yet I remember how much that one 5-minute moment made me feel. And I couldn’t bear to imagine how it would feel to another.
I was still “different” somehow.
As the years went by in my marriage, my husband and I began to start walking out our faith journey. We started visiting churches and because I didn’t grow up in church, I was hesitant to even go. I was embarrassed I would look as though I didn’t belong, because I’d have to use the table of contents in my Bible (shouldn’t I know what was in the Old and New Testament?) or heaven forbid, I needed to look at the screen for the words to the worship songs being sung.
There was one experience in particular, where I was almost paralyzed by what others might think of me. Looking around a room where it seemed everyone was raising hands, knowing all the words, connecting with eyes closed…
I immediately felt frozen… do I lift up my hands? Do I know all these words? What am I even doing here? I don’t even know much about the Bible.
Then I heard,
“in my Father’s house, there’s a place for me, I’m a child of God, yes I am” I’d heard these words so many times, but I felt the Holy Spirit with me in that moment, as an invitation to explore even more of who He says I am.I was able to encounter God in such a way that He assured me I DO belong. The different pieces of me is exactly how He designed me, and for a purpose. No mistakes in my build."
In our Father's house, we are all family.
There is room at the table. There are no exclusions. There is no need to perform for His love and for a spot. He won’t close His house to you based on a mistake.
See, in our Father’s house, we are not defined by:
Our first and last names
The country we are from
The color of our skin
Our financial status
I bless you to know:
You belong in the family of God.
The table is huge and open to all, yet nobody is overlooked or favored more than another.
You don’t have to prove yourself.
You don’t have to EARN your seat.
You don’t have to change yourself to fit in.
You don’t have to go searching anymore.
I always believed in Jesus.
I thought He was amazing and could never fathom the love He had to give His life. I believed that He did that for chosen people, but I didn’t quite accept that I belonged in the “chosen” group. I want to share TRUTH with you – whether you’ve known Him all your life, you found Him later in your years, or you’ve yet to know Him, YOU are of the chosen. I’d invite you to close your eyes, and just see Him on the cross, and say out loud, “I receive what you did for me”.
He chose you. Yes “you” reading this, before you were even birthed into this world. He even chose those who would never choose Him back – what kind of love is that, right? An amazing one, if you ask me.
You see, in terms of belonging, we aren’t just family based on the blood running through our veins … we are united as family through His shed blood.
You belong. Right here… at the table… with the Father.
This is family. Welcome home.
With blessings and love,
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