This past week Amy and I slipped away for a few days to go camping in the Smoky Mountains. Leaves were in their full fall glory and everywhere we turned were reminders of autumnal beauty. We love the mountains even though we did not grow up in the mountains. Neither did our parents or their parents or their parents. We both hail from Middle Georgia environs surrounded by gentle, rolling hills where the closest thing to a mountain was the fire ant mounds. Yet each time we lose ourselves “up there in the hills” and huddle around a campfire we feel a certain reconnection with our past. Many of Amy’s best childhood memories are of family camping trips. My grandparents rarely left the dairy, but the two or so times I remember them traveling it was to head to the mountains. One time it included taking my brothers, sister and me to see those mountains for the first time.
Every time we are up in mountain territory – in a tent, on a trail, a hotel room, or just riding along the winding highway – we feel a reconnection, a belonging as if we have always been there.
Deep within every one of us is the need to belong. Young children take pride in belonging to their parents; adolescents carve out new identities and belong to their friends; emerging into adulthood there is the need to belong to independent ideas and convictions; and it is not uncommon that as we grow older in our adulthood we seek out our past recovering what and who we are and to whom we belong.
What a lovely place church can be as we seek to reconnect with our past as well as face the unknown future. Whether one is a church member going back many generations, or simply a pilgrim passing briefly through, we all are wanting and seeking the same thing: to belong.
Each time we gather we are cultivating a time of belonging in Christ. Like a drive in the mountains where an old homesickness is stirred up, we are at our best when we can sense a hunger to connect, belong. This happens when we worship. Hymns or praise music; sermons or testimonies; high liturgy or simply casual – worship can be a beautiful dance with one another and the Most High God.
Cultivating a time of belonging happens around the table too – and here I mean the supper table. Wednesday evenings are some of my favorite times of belonging. Walking among the tables and speaking – even if it is briefly – to children doing their homework while rushing through a meal; catching up with harried adults who are moving quickly between work and home; and seniors who come early to see their friends have become a highlight of my week. Belonging.
The biblical and liturgical image is the table that Christ has set inviting us to come, sit, and share. Belonging is God’s gift to us and our gift to one another. This is church. This is belonging.
Grateful to belong to you,