When I was a preschool aged child, one of my frequently watched television shows was Sesame Street. Nearly every time, there was a short segment of the show where they played a song titled “One of These Things,” in which they showed several items that were all very much the same except for one. For example, there would be four balloons of varying size and shape. Three were red, one was blue, so obviously the one blue was the different one. The goal was to guess which item was different before the short, approximately 30 second song ended.
The words to this song went like this:
One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn't belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others By the time I finish my song? Did you guess which thing was not like the others? Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong? If you guessed this one is not like the others, Then you're absolutely...right!
This simple, fun exercise was clearly teaching young children to identify and categorize objects by simple traits such as colors, shapes, textures, size, etc. These are very fundamental, basic concepts that later help with sorting and classifying, skills important in math, science, and critical thinking. But as I thought about this song, I realized that those words could be harmful if I applied them to myself.
How many times growing up, past that preschool stage, particularly during middle school and into high school, did I feel like “the thing that just doesn’t belong?” How hard did I try to be the thing that was “like the others?” Honestly, I know that any time worrying about whether I belonged, whether it was only a few occasions or many, was a moment where I was believing a lie about who I am and how much I am loved.
Toward the end of 2021, I read the following verse
For royal power belongs to the Lord,
He rules all the nations.
For some reason, the word BELONGS caught my attention. I read that short little verse over and over, and as I did, I was reminded that all things belong to God. He is the creator, orchestrator, ruler of every single thing, and therefore, we all belong to Him. Yep, little, unique, unmatchable me and you belong to the all-powerful God.
That should bring us plenty of peace, confidence, and security. It should free us to be exactly who we're created to be.
While that word BELONG remained in my mind, I went on a bigger search of that word and the concept of belonging in the Bible. Aside from that small verse in Psalms, I realized there have been quite a few things pointing me to this word BELONG for quite some time. Here are a couple:
1. My second teen/young adult novel Finding True North (currently in the editing stage in hopes of being ready for publication in the fall!) is all about a character trying to figure out who she is and how she fits into this world.
2. One of my amazing friends and I began a study of the gospel of Luke back in November, and in that process I learned that Luke has often been called “The Gospel of the Outcast,” with its main theme summed up at the end of the Zacchaeus episode:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:10
3. In all my years working with young people - middle school and high school age especially, I see more and more how much the world distracts from the truth of who God says we are. We live in a comparison culture, where we can instantly click on a social media app and compare our lives to everyone else. We need to hear God's truth above all this.
As a result, I decided the word BELONG was my word for 2022, and if you’re interested, I invite you to join me, even for a little while, in the pursuit of what that means as known and beloved children of God in a world that might often try to tell us something else.
In my next blogs, I will be focusing on the gospel of Luke, along with other passages that remind us of our belonging, of WHO we are and WHOSE we are, and how we can go out and help others in this way.
The passages I’m starting with are these from Luke 2 and Luke 4:
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior –yes, the Messiah, the Lord –has been born today in Bethlehem.”
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
For he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives
Will be released,
That the blind will see,
That the oppressed will be set free,
And that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
So, if I were to revise that Sesame Street game to fit the theme of Luke’s gospel, maybe I’d have an image of all the things we tend to look at as different about ourselves or others, the things that aren’t considered “cool” or “normal,” the things that cause us, those we care about, or even those we don't know to feel lost, outcast, blinded, oppressed, captive, and I’d simply sing this:
All of these things are not like the others
But All of these things BELONG in His Name.
Even when you feel lost, sad, or frightened
God is present with you and his love always stays.
And to all my fellow Sesame Street viewers out there, I still think the original song has value, just not in connection to who we are. Even when we're not like the others (which is always), we all really do belong.
I wish you a blessed week, knowing you belong as a fully known, deeply loved child of God.
My Journal Suggestions this week:
· Read these two passages several times through. Highlight, underline, or jot down what words or phrases catch your attention.
· What might God be showing you in these words? What promises is he making? Write your thoughts.
· What do you want to say to God about these words? Write your thoughts.
· What might God be asking you to do or think about in these words? Write your thoughts.
· What might be holding you captive? Something that weighs you down or keeps you from being who you’re created to be? Write that down and ask God to help you, to release you from this, to set you free.
· What is blinding you from seeing yourself as God sees you or from seeing the depth of his love for you? Write or say a prayer asking God to help you with this.
· Listen to the song “Jubilee” by Maverick City Music. Picture all the things Jesus wants to help you with as you simply listen and soak in his presence.
· Write or say Luke 4:18-19 in your own words as a prayer. Here’s my example:
I pray for your spirit, upon me and those I love. Help us to feel your presence and understand the Good News that you bring us each day, the Good News that you free us from anything that holds us captive. Help us with the things and circumstances that weigh us down and distract us from you, your love, your strength, and your peace. Help us where we are blinded. Help us to see you, to see where you want us to follow in your will. Thank you for your word and your love always.
In Jesus’ name,