To Be Or Not To Be A Buckeye
O-H-I-O. I’m not a Buckeye fan. Now that I’ve either intrigued or offended you, let me continue on and I promise I’ll bring this all full circle. I’m a Chicago native- born and raised. I root for the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Sox, and Hawks through and through. Deep dish pizza reigns supreme and yes, I believe putting ketchup on a hotdog is sinful. I love the immense pride that accompanies valuing where you come from. A sense of belonging. Sharing common ground.
My husband Alex and I relocated to Columbus in the fall of 2014. While I was excited for a new season in life and to experience something different, on the inside I cringed at the inescapable reality that it meant leaving behind all I’d ever known- including the most genuine friends, family, and church community- relationships that had been built over years and years of living life together. Our cousins told us about One Church, so we decided to visit while still keeping an open mind on if there was another church in the area where we thought we’d be a better fit. We connected to Pastor Greg and his messages right away, but I still struggled on wondering if I belonged there. Sure, everyone was nice enough, really outgoing and genuine. I mean, we even had a group of people from the church help us unload our moving truck the night we moved here (seriously, anyone that helps you move should automatically be a friend for life). And yet, I couldn’t figure out why I felt I didn’t belong.
A Re-occurring Theme of Self
It took some personal digging and praying on my end to understand why I was feeling the way I was. We got connected to the church with other people our age, were serving in areas of ministry, and had a great community that we quickly fell into. All seemed well except it wasn’t. Soon it finally clicked to me that I was my own barrier. I was the problem. I didn’t want to belong. I was holding on to my own pride on what I wanted my new community to look like- exactly like me. While there were so many areas of similarities I chose to only focus on the differences. I dressed differently, I talked differently, my humor was different, I was from a different cultural background. Notice a recurring theme? Self. When God opened my eyes to view things with a new perspective, outside of my own selfish lenses, I could celebrate the differences of those around me and see the beauty in it.
I didn’t want to belong because I felt that in order for that to happen I’d need to change who I was. I was believing the warped thought that I couldn’t find acceptance because I didn’t fit a certain mold. Holding others to a standard that was only defined and imposed by me. Unfortunately, I think that happens a lot with people and church. The church was not meant to conform to shallow external evaluations on how the people should be. God Himself created us as image bearers of Him, but that was never meant to imply we all have to look the exact same. How are we changing internally and how are our lives being impacted because of the work of Jesus in our hearts and minds? It’s how we’re growing on the inside to look more like Jesus that holds significance. I realized I didn’t have to shed or sacrifice my exterior attributes to find a church community that I belonged in and nor should anyone else.
When I let go of my self-centered expectations I found belonging. I found common ground. I gained a new family and community whose main mission is to grow to look more like Jesus. I’ve found friends who’ve dropped everything to come pick me up when my car breaks down, who’ve visited me in the hospital, who’ve brought meals and fed my family after the birth of my son and friends who’ve prayed for me and encouraged me through difficult times.
And even though I may never be a Buckeye fan, Columbus is my home. One Church is my family. And I belong.
written by: Brianna Rodriguez, November 2016
Brianna Rodriguez is a wife, mom, and photographer who blogs about her family life and work at briannarodriguez.com. She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Alex and their son Dominick. Brianna and her husband serve as youth pastors to the youth group, One Movement at One Church. To see more of her day to day life and shenanigans, follow her on Instagram.