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.
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?