Choosing Belonging

choosing belonging

It seems like choosing belonging would be easy for me because I’m a natural “joiner.” My love for new ideas and projects, fresh starts and new beginnings has me saying yes to joining all sorts of things: book groups, health clubs, school committees, diet crazes, subscriptions to Stitch Fix and monthly home deliveries of organic produce.

But all of my joining doesn’t make me good at belonging. Joining is a one-time decision. A “yes” to the question: “May we add your name to our list of subscribers?”

Belonging asks more of me. It requires me to make a choice.

Sometimes the choice is easy. I’ll find myself in a group where the feeling of belonging seems to spark spontaneously. Connection weaves itself around us and knits us together, making us feel like we’ve been friends for years. Choosing to belong in a group like that feels effortless, natural and right.

At other times, connecting takes work. Things don’t happen so quickly. Awkwardness sets in and conversations stall. No one laughs at my jokes. Warm feelings are interspersed with chilly moments when belonging disappears around a corner and is quickly lost from view.

That’s when the “joiner” in me, the lover of new beginnings, is tempted to start asking questions.

Am I getting what I want out of this?
Do I feel welcomed, embraced, and accepted?
Is this a place where people “get me” so I can relax and begin enjoying the kind of belonging I think others – out there somewhere – are experiencing?

I start wondering if a new group, place, or community will offer me the feeling of belonging I’m searching for. Something that would feel more like home. My eyes are fixed on what I want belonging to do for me. But real belonging isn’t about that.

Belonging is more about what it does in me than what it does for me.

Belonging reminds me that I am a part of a bigger story.
It keeps me humble.
It reminds me that I don’t know everything, and reassures me that I don’t need to.
It helps me not take myself so seriously.

Belonging tests and expands my ability to trust.
It invites me to risk vulnerability. To ask for what I need. To survive hearing, “no.”

Belonging multiplies my laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. In short, it gives me a much bigger life than I could ever live alone. And it does the same for those to whom I belong.

Belonging isn’t only about me. Belonging is about us.

We belong to one another because we belong to God. (Rom. 12:5) God’s people are family. We hold each other up. We build each other up. We pool our gifts and talents so that together we are stronger than who we are alone.

We find belonging through the ups and downs of our shared life experiences, both joyful and challenging. Falling in love, raising babies, surviving teenagers, watching our parents (and ourselves!) age, and encouraging one another, again and again, to turn to the One who loves us most and has a plan for us. We help each other know and live God’s truth when our ears become tired, and our hearing grows dull.

Living like we belong is our choice.

“Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Belonging isn’t perfect. But choosing to belong is a privilege we share. It isn’t easy or effortless. And it won’t live up to all of our expectations. But it will live up to God’s. He invites us to come together to take our seat at the table. Not asking what will be served to us or what will be in it for us. But asking what we can bring to make the meal a feast.

choosing belonging

We find home when we choose to belong to one another. And that’s a fresh start and new beginning we can make every day.

Who are the people gathering with you at the table? What are you learning about belonging to one another?

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  1. Lorraine W. Murphy says:

    Wow, Jody! This one is going to take a lot of thinking over by me. I seem to be a joiner, but not a belonger — I wish it were different but it just doesn’t seem to happen. I know age and ill health are real contributors to my attitude. Some days, I feel like I could be everything to everybody (I belong — sort of — to a Circle at my church) and other days, I could care less.

    I’ll keep reading this one and see where I might fit in.
    Love you for all your encouragement.
    Blessings, Lorraine

    1. Oh how that pendulum swings for all of us from saying “yes” to too much then wanting nothing more than to check out of everything! I’m right there with you, Lorraine! Asking God for the wisdom and energy to say “yes” and mean it when it’s the right thing is a daily habit I’m still working on too. So glad we can encourage one another to keep listening for the invitation to belong when it’s the right fit.

  2. I do the total opposite, Jody. I find myself not joining anything because I don’t want the commitment. In turn, my time is taken up with my job, household duties, etc., but nothing meaningful to me as a person. I am encouraged to look for a place, outside my daily routine, to belong, and make a difference. Love you..

    1. I hear you, Carol! When our lives are full of the “musts” and “shoulds” that need doing, it’s hard to even think about adding anything more into our schedules! But I think God is inviting us into a bigger life than that – not to add to our “to do” lists, but to lift up our heads from the daily grind so we can find rest and experience more joy. He’s a good, good Father who is inviting us to belong somewhere that will inspire us and help us to remember that we are His daughters. And what good father would only want all work and no play for his girls?

  3. Lori Sweat says:

    Hi Jody, I’m Carol Kaufman’s older sister. I met you many years ago but you probably don’t remember. Carol got me started reading your blogs a few weeks ago. I truly enjoy each & every one!!! They are very Fresh, well thought out, but not “preachy”. Keep up the great work, look forward to every Wednesday!!!

    1. Yes, Lori! I do remember meeting you and I’m so thankful that Carol shared my blog with you. I’m glad you’re finding it encouraging and I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback as I continue to stumble through the topics I think we are all continuing to figure out together! Thanks so much for reading and commenting this week!

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