By: Jenni Walker & Beth Doohan
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world….I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
“’Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife [His bride!] has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:6b–8
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Do I belong? We have examined three truths this month that God wants each of us as wholehearted women to be deeply assured of. As Christians, we now belong to our Lord, we belong to the family of God, and we are called to help others experience that belonging. But no matter how deeply anchored we become in each of these biblical truths, there will always be a feeling that we do not belong that must be grappled with in our time on this earth. Why? Because this is not our final destination! The final truth of the matter is that we do not belong here.
In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter begins his letter by addressing it to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” This word pilgrims means sojourners or temporary residents. Here are these Christians who are dispersed all over; they all belong to the “elect” through the blood of Jesus. And, yet, they also know that this earth is only their temporary residence.
Peter goes on to write about the genuineness of their faith, which will “be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:7b-8). He uses this same terminology again in 1 Peter 2:11 saying, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
We don’t ultimately belong here. As such, Peter points out that we are to live differently in our time here on this earth. This is not a reality in which we passively wait for the return of Christ. There is work to do! Near the end of Revelation, the following is described of the return of Jesus: “’Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife [His bride!] has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (19:6b–8).
This passage is beautiful, sobering, and stunningly clear. As the bride of Christ, the Church is to make herself ready. And each of us has a part to play. What have you been called to in the strength of the Lord? As a follower of Jesus in your time here on this earth? As we each consider this, it is imperative to remember that it is all done through, and in response to, the work of Christ and “in sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:1). In the righteous acts of the saints, this “making herself ready,” we don’t act alone!
We act in the life of Christ: “For in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28a)
We act as His people in the body of Christ: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God…” (1 Peter 2:9–10a)
And we act in our time on this earth (with so many lost in darkness!) as those who invite others to be reconciled to God. We can respond like John the Baptist when He saw Jesus coming toward Him, declaring: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b)
In one of my (Beth’s) favorite children’s novels, The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis depicts a story of two children and two talking horses on their way to Narnia to escape the brutality and slavery of the pagan land of Calormen. The main character, a young boy named Shasta, has been brought up without a family by a fisherman and treated little better than a slave. Throughout the story, we see that he has not allowed his suffering to make him bitter, but that he still feels a deep sense of unbelonging and loneliness.
It is not until he encounters Aslan, the great lion, that he begins to see the hand of the almighty at work in his life and discovers family, community and abundant living. In Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre production of this story, C.S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, comments that the story’s setting in a foreign land encapsulates a sense of “unbelonging” in the characters that Lewis ultimately meant to reflect the same “unbelonging” found in all humanity that is only filled in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The closer we grow in our relationship with the Lord and in the foundation of our identity, our belonging, our hope in Christ, the more we will also grow in our understanding that we will one day be with the Lord. That desire deep down to belong will be fully realized one day! Revelation 22:3-4 describes a time when “there will be no more curse” and His servants shall serve Him and “see His face.”
And in the meantime, as sojourners here on this earth, we can be assured that we belong to our Lord (Isaiah 43:1), that we have a place in His church body (1 Corinthians 12:18), that we can help others to belong (Titus 2:14), and that one day we will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”
What a wondrous, unshakeable reality! It brings to mind once again the earnest, yet almost ethereal words of C.S. Lewis. In The Last Battle, he writes, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
Do I belong? Oh, yes! In our time here on earth, may we “come further up” and “come further in” to experiencing the belonging we have in Christ. May we live in the reality that we belong to God, that He is with us, and yet, that the best is yet to come because there is a day when we will always be with the Lord!
Time to Reflect
1. Take some time to reflect honestly with the Lord about today’s devotion topic. What is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?
2. Revisit today’s Scripture passages. What do these verses teach us? How do they change things? (i.e. The way that we live? What we live for? Our experience of God?)
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)