Not so long ago Amy and I slipped away for a few days to go camping in the Smoky Mountains. The trees were still stark and bare, which hold their own kind of beauty. Although we had intermittent rain, we also tromped around in some snow while hiking. We love the mountains even though we did not grow up in the mountains. We both hail from Middle Georgia environs surrounded by gentle, rolling hills where the closest thing to a mountain was a fire-ant mound. Yet each time we return and lose ourselves “up there in the hills” huddling around a campfire we feel a certain re-connection 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 away from cows and kin, 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 and age we seek out our past recovering what and who we are and to whom we belong.
Belonging happens in churches where it does not matter who you are or what you know or where you come from. What matters is that you are welcome.
Belonging happens when a kind word is shared with a stranger while patiently (or as often impatiently) waiting in shopping line.
Belonging happens with smiles, hugs, and tender touches.
Belonging happens around the tables of the many homes our ministry serves where a simple meal, lovingly prepared, is blessed and shared.
Perhaps that is the central mission of God – to invite us into beloved belonging; to be reminded of the sacred inheritance that we each reflect God’s image; to know, really know, that we are loved of God and hold value to our Maker. The stories of the sufferings of Christ and his death and burial are stories not to alienate us, but connect us and remind us that even in suffering and death, nothing will “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)
When you know that you are beloved you know that you belong. Every human being was created by God as beloved in order to belong.
I hope you find your belonging. And when you do, make certain that you allow others to belong too.
“…Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life…all of our life.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World
Blessed to belong as God’s beloved,