In a town called Liberty, we lived with our door wide open for years. Friends and neighbors in and out. Impromptu movie nights, babysitting swaps, birthdays, and BBQs. Our small house couldn’t hold them all at times, so our parties trailed out of doors. We belonged, and from that gift, we helped others belong.
Then one day we decided to move.
Our new home was bigger and more suited for entertaining. It was the reason we bought it. A welcoming entry way (without a fantastic view of dirty dishes) plus a spacious patio for the friends we imagined. We just knew we would be friends with all the neighbors, that we would get connected quickly at work and church, and that fitting in wouldn’t be a problem.
I started my part of the crusade by introducing myself to every person I met at the park and was sure to give them my number. Days went by. No phone calls. I invited new church friends over. It was great, for a while, but our church was so big, we rarely saw the friends we did make. In the school groups we joined, everyone already had well-established connections. We tried to gently push our way in with friendly boldness and determined hope, but there was also this one thing: everyone was so busy.
For periods of time we did make friends. Then relationships fizzled for various circumstantial reasons: a class would end, a family would move, or school would start. We found ourselves starting over once more. Year after year in our big beautiful house.
Every day felt harder than the one before—to introduce myself again and again. To always be the one inviting. Eventually I stopped reaching out altogether. I was tired and lonely. Every time I drove back from a visit to our old town (which was just an hour away) I wept in the car, remembering the deep family-like friendships we had there. I vowed that nothing in our new town would ever compare to that. I wouldn’t even give it another chance.This home would never be what I wanted it to be because I didn’t belong.
So when a new friend would invite me over, I told them I was busy. When I watered the flowers and saw a neighbor getting the mail, I stayed put. I might lift a hand in hello. But it felt safer and less disappointing to duck inside and sit on my back deck alone. Doors closed. Heart shut tight.
I pined for Liberty. My husband begged me to stop nagging him about moving back. As I began to see how my children felt rooted in this home in which I didn’t, I grew bitter and anxious. The patio stayed empty.
In Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, Christie Purifoy says about chasing expectation,
“What might happen if I loosen my grip on the perfection of the not yet? What if I stop acting as if not yet is something I can achieve? Something I am supposed to muscle into existence? I want to learn to live in today as I live in this house.”
We just furnished our patio with a table and chairs. The weather is warm and tomorrow I’m having new friends over again. People who want to belong, just like me. We’re all in difficult transitions, trying to find ourselves and where we belong as writers, mothers, wives, and followers of Jesus. Maybe not quite fitting in has been a gift, strange as it is. I feel like I’m being invited to give the not yet another chance.