As I mentioned yesterday, I'm currently reading Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver. Today, as I was walking home from the Metro, with my nose in this wonderful book, I was so affected by the story that I began to tear up.
Barbara's main character, Cosima, is someone I can really identify with (except for the fact that she's trained as a doctor and looks like a supermodel :). She wants nothing more than to belong somewhere, to someone, but she hasn't been able to find that place. At some points, it seems that she won't allow herself to find her place, preferring to remain in her bizarre "comfort zone" of being the outsider, the bad daughter, the amnesiac who forgets names and faces as quickly as she hears them.
I know how she feels. The one thing I've always wanted in my life is to feel like I fit somehwere, like I was so integral to the landscape that everyone would notice if I was absent, but, at the same time, I'm comfortable with my role as the aloof one. There have been times, mostly in college, that I sensed I was in exactly the place I was meant to be, but pretty frequently, I felt like the expendable character in a TV series. You know, the character who has no name, will be the first to die, and will not be missed by any of the main characters. (I doubt this feeling is justified, but it's there nonetheless.)
Anyway, Cosima goes back to her "hometown" for a year and becomes involved with a man she dated briefly in high school, Loyd. He is a Native American. She goes home with Loyd for Christmas and can't help but notice how snugly he fits into his landscape. They go to a dance on Christmas day. As the dance unfolds before them, they have a discussion about religion and prayer. The content of the conversation was certainly interesting, but I was more affected by the ritual of the dance, the closeness of the families and the amazing perspective that Loyd possessed because he was an important, albeit small, part of something bigger than himself; his family, their community, a heritage.
The hope of becoming a part of something bigger than myself was what attracted me to the church, to Christ. The promise of a community and unconditional acceptance into the heart of God was pretty much irresistable. Occasionally, during worship, I am overwhelmed by a sense of belonging and I can barely continue singing. Hopefully, one day, I will have found/created a space where that feeling of belonging, of being part of something bigger will be less an occasion and more a way of life.