By Dolly Wang
There’s a question that I’ve asked myself repeatedly over the years—sometimes as I laugh at a joke amongst a group of friends, sometimes through tears, curled into the fetal position. Sometimes verbally. Sometimes unadmittedly, underneath layers of pretense that I’ve created to protect myself. It’s not a question you ever want to find yourself voicing, yet leaving it unanswered breeds a deep, insatiable anxiety that breaks you down.
That question is, “do I belong?”
I remember coming back to Vancouver for the final time after years of constantly moving countries. The first day of grade seven, I walked into the classroom and immediately felt naked—I knew that I didn’t belong. I knew that as certainly as I knew I wore the wrong clothes, packed the wrong things for lunch, and couldn’t serve a volleyball like all the other kids. I was a foreigner.
Do I belong? Throughout high school, the “no” to this question gradually evolved into a “maybe”. I did well academically, played sports, and made friends. If I did what everyone else was doing, if I at least appeared to blend in amongst the hundreds of faces in the school yearbook, then maybe the superficial label of “I belong” will gradually seep in deeper and translate into the acceptance that I so deeply craved. But I knew that deep down, the answer was still no; inwardly, I still felt like a foreigner. Reducing myself to this simple label demolished and twisted my perception of what it meant to feel human, as I had come to think that being a foreigner meant that I deserved the rejection.
I believe that a sense of belonging is a universal human need, regardless of background. And the opposite, rejection, kills you slowly by poisoning your self-worth and identity.
When I eventually found community, all of this made it extremely difficult to both love and accept love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Throughout living in community at UBC, I wrestled with this as Jesus showed me more and more of what receiving His love was, particularly in response to the label “foreigner”.
I found that receiving His love allowed me to finally experience the feeling of “I’ve come home”.
Being a “foreigner” is no longer a part of my identity, but it’s a part of my history. And I lay that part of my history down before Jesus as I co-lead a volunteer team to Greek refugee camp this Christmas. I cannot begin to imagine the experiences a refugee has undergone to flee war and arrive at a refugee camp. But I would like to get down on my knees and serve them, in order to demonstrate the answer to the question I’ve repeated to myself these past ten years:
Is there a place in this world for me, does anyone see me, do I deserve love--do I belong?