As human beings we are created with a need to belong because we are created by the ultimate community of God, Three in One, inseparable yet distinct. This sense of belonging is critical to our wellbeing.
Way back when as I was in conversation with my bishop about where I’d go to seminary, I visited two different schools. After the prospective student weekend at one I kept thinking to myself, “I don’t think I belong here” and yet this was supposedly my top choice. It was closer to home. I’d still be with the people with whom I knew I was loved and accepted and challenged to be who God calls me to be. I tried really hard to ignore the feeling that this school wasn’t where I was to go.
As I stepped foot in my second choice school, (the school that was so very far away and I wouldn’t be able to come home but twice a year and depending on internships and chaplaincy training maybe not even then) I was overwhelmed by the emotion of being home. Even before I met other prospective students or the professors, it felt right. And the time I did spend there that weekend only strengthened this feeling.
Following the weekend as I was faced with the deadline for the decision of where to go, I sat in my room, comparing costs and making pro/con lists trying to justify the first choice. Finally, I wadded up my notes, tossed them across the room, and said (perhaps too loudly), “God give me a burning bush to tell me what to do.”
I laugh now when I tell that story because the answer is so very obvious. God had given me the answer. Perhaps not as dramatic as a burning bush but the answer none the less.
In the three years I spent in this wonderful place with people I grew to love dearly, I felt belonging that went so much deeper than school spirit. I learned that underneath our connections to others dependent on shared experiences such as schools, sports teams, hometowns, or even political parties or church denominations, we belong to each other because we belong to God.
It is from this level of belonging that our everlasting identity is formed. And when we learn to see this in ourselves, our vision shifts, we can see beyond ourselves to the “more” we truly belong to.
I invite you to think a bit today about where you look for a sense of belonging and why it is you find it where you do. We’ll talk more tomorrow.