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Belonging is one of those words that jumps out at me, then dives straight down into some deep cavern of my soul, stirring something sort of sweet, slightly nostalgic, and a little painful. Know what I’m talking about?

It’s that feeling that can seem too deep to get hold of, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing I used to call homesickness. That feeling that I now know is really more about belonging, and seemed like a natural follow-up to last week’s post about “the place where hearts are sure of each other.”

There’s an atmosphere that precedes every true experience of belonging. A welcoming atmosphere that the “Welcome Home” cover photo from last week depicts so well. {Click back if you missed it. It’s the kind of shot that catches in your throat for the sheer wanting of it in real life.} And it explains why I melted just a little when I ran across the term Belongers in an article about the Caribbean culture of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

What a sweet way to refer to those who have belonged on the island for generations, I thought. It turned out, though, that the term is actually a legal classification of citizenship in British Overseas Territories used for “people who have close ties to a specific territory, normally by birth and/or ancestry, and confers on them certain rights and requirements associated with the status.”

I must admit that the legality of the term squelched the “awww … factor” for me just a little, but I knew there was something about this that would bring the post around, so I kept going. And then, it all began to make sense.

I learned that Belongers are descendants of African slaves who miraculously survived the shipwreck of a Spanish slave ship off the coast of East Caicos in 1841. I learned that this story of outrage and injustice ended with the freeing of every captive on that ship. I learned that researchers conclude that every Belonger today is, most likely, linked by blood or marriage to this one incident. And I’m pretty sure their story is also linked to the story of a man who led the campaign that abolished slavery in Britain and all its territories … just seven years earlier.

We never know what “a thing or person rightly placed” might end up looking like, or leading to. We think we do, because our desire for belonging is so strong that there’s practically no end to our attempts to define it and find it.

Never in a million years would I have thought that I would feel “rightly placed” where I am right now. I was so sure I didn’t belong here that I was determined to prove myself right … until I realized I was wrong. Believe what you will about the sovereignty of God. All I know is that I am eternally grateful that the shipwrecks in my own life ended up freeing this captive, and linking me to a bigger story of belonging beyond my wildest dreams.

All accounts of the original Belongers in Turks and Caicos refer to their story as miraculous, and I would say the same of mine. Our shipwrecks can land us in completely foreign places, but today I can honestly say that I belong. That I’m rightly placed. No longer homesick. And that, to me, is a miracle!

My prayer for each of you is a stirring in the deep caverns of your own soul that catches in your throat and leads you to the miracle of being welcomed home … and knowing you belong.

Love Julie


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