Where do you belong? To whom to you belong? I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week realizing that . . .
Most of our definitions of what it means to belong comes with constraints like rules and regulations.
If you want to belong to a gym, you’ve got to pay a monthly fee and sign a contract with terms of service.
If you want to belong to a neighborhood association, you’ve got to sign up and pay your dues (and not be late when you pay them!)
If you want to belong to an alumni group of the college you attended, you’ve got to show your alma mater some love from your check book.
Just this week, in fact, I attended a women’s organization meeting in my neighborhood—with the intend of possibly joining the group only to hear after: “Well, you seem nice, but here are 3 more things you need to do before you can consider belonging to us.” (Sigh).
And while the experience of belonging to something is what we all crave—often times the experience of trying to belong does not bring comfort to our souls.
The rules get in the way! Because what we miss is the feeling that we’re seen. We’re heard. And we’re loved. JUST AS WE ARE.
This past Sunday I preached on Jeremiah 31:31-34, a piece of scripture that has a lot to say about belonging. Such was true because the nation of Israel was trying to find its way in post-exile living. They belonged nowhere!
Can you imagine the grief and loss? Their homes were gone. Their livestock was gone. Any authorities present to help them re-build were no longer in charge. It was the definition of living in an “out of sorts” way.
God interrupt their despair.
And says this: “I will put my law within them, and I will l write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, and say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me.”
It was a total 180 degrees shift for this God who’d previously based relationship with his people on laws written in Stone, like the 10 commandments.
God says their relationship would no longer be something they had to figure out. Study well enough. Or honored in a particular way. Nope!
They’d know the LORD because it would be a part of their DNA. The LORD would be closer to them than they were to themselves, even. The Lord would be a key part of their identity.
God says we’d BELONG because of the LOVE written on our hearts.
I couldn’t help but draw from the work of Brene Brown at this point in my thinking about belonging.
One of my favorite quotes from her latest book, Braving the Wilderness says this about belonging.
“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are. True belonging is not something you negotiate externally, it’s what you carry in your heart”
Such is exactly what God was trying to communicate to the children of Israel that day through the prophet Jeremiah.
Though their life was in upheaval . . .
Though they have made less than best choices for themselves . . .
Though they may not even know how to find their way back . . .
When I think about the courage needed church for the living of these days like the ones we’re in, I can’t think of a more powerful attribute of God to take with us than belonging.
For though we might wake up on so many days and look around our world and not recognition anything around us that feels familiar, we can be in relationship with a God is about the work of making things new.
We can be in relationship with a God who tells us we don’t have fret so much about acceptance from this authority person in our lives or this organization with prestige.
Because we ALREADY belong.
We can carry ourselves with this knowing. We can always come back to this centering point. God says you belong. You are enough. You are so loved.
It’s my hope for you today that you believe what your Creator believes about you.