Where Do You Belong?
We hope today’s post from Still Life in Shadows author Alice J. Wisler resonates with you as much as it did with us.
“To be accepted, to find home, to belong.”
How often I have realized that so much of living revolves around this theme. No matter who we are or where we grew up, we want to feel needed, accepted, cared for. We desire that place where we can take off our shoes, relax, that place where we can be ourselves, and belong.
The need to belong is a universal theme, a basic human necessity, and I use it in my novel, Still Life in Shadows. To portray this theme, I chose to set my story in the fictitious North Carolina mountain town of Twin Branches. Gideon, who is one of my main characters, has come to this area after running away from his Amish home in Pennsylvania. He knows what it’s like to leave home and community. He understands what it takes to adapt to a society removed from his own.
Yet Gideon has carried some of his old rigid thoughts and beliefs about God with him. As he learns the ropes of working as a mechanic at Ormond’s garage, he realizes that he can be just as judgmental as his father and those in his Amish community that he couldn’t wait to leave. On his farm in Carlisle, life revolved around the Ordnung: order, rule and discipline. Here in Twin Branches, Gideon longs to fully embrace the freeing love of Jesus Christ. But in order to do this, he knows that he has to forgive.
I grew up as a missionary kid and pastor’s daughter in Japan. I have been in churches and among Christians all my life. Yet, I see how guilty we all can be when it comes to having pride and lack of humility. We forget to put on the nature of Jesus like we read about in Philippians 2. We neglect the passages that we are not to judge, but to love. “Make love your aim” (I Corinthians 14:1) seems far removed from us on days when we are filled with strife or disharmony in our own communities. And for those times when we see our shortcomings and beg to be forgiven, there are times when we feel we don’t deserve it. We have been a disappointment to our very selves. Sometimes being able to forgive ourselves is the hardest task– as Gideon learns when his brother comes to visit and when he has to make that unexpected journey back to his roots.
Kiki, my autistic teen character, also strives to belong among her peers. She has some disadvantages, but in spite of them, teaches Gideon more about God’s grace than he could learn from any adult. Kiki is quick to love, eager to accept.
In Still Life in Shadows, I want my readers to know that they are each loved by God and that as a shepherd He carries us in his arms, close to His heart. No matter who we are, no matter how far we might feel from Him. He asks us to bow down and worship the One who knows our name, the One who has our very name tattooed on the palm of His hand. The One to whom we belong.
Come, stop running, take off your shoes, rest, and learn from Him. He always welcomes you.
ALICE J. WISLER is the author of five southern novels, Rain Song (Christy Finalist), How Sweet It Is (Christy Finalist), Hatteras Girl, A Wedding Invitation and Still Life in Shadows. Each novel has recipes in the back because Alice believes reading and eating go hand in hand. Check out her bread in a can (from Still Life in Shadows) photos at her blog.
Since the death of her four-year-old son, Daniel, Alice has written for various bereavement magazines. She also teaches grief and loss writing workshops across the country at conferences and online. Her most recent book (non-fiction) is Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, geared to offer comfort in heartache.
YOU TELL US: What makes you feel like you belong? How has God reminded you that you belong to Him?