Most of us know the feeling of being alone. We all long to belong. We all want to be seen and supported. We all want to be connected with others and valued. At some level, we all want to know - How can I be me? Who are my people? Where do I belong?
The first time I entered the world and encountered these questions was when I was in kindergarten. I was not sure that I belonged. I have a clear memory of one day in particular. At the end of the day, during free-time, I went and sat under a table toward the back of the classroom. The table was open on all sides so anyone could see that I was there. There were book shelves nearby and some interesting things to look at. I took stock of my surroundings and then the classroom itself caught my attention. I looked at the mostly empty tables where students sat. I saw other kids playing and walking around, a group of boys here, some girls there. I saw the teacher at the front of the room with a group of students. Then a thought occurred to me - where do I belong?
In the time that it took me to wonder about it, everyone had moved back to their seats and class resumed. At first I was terrified. I didn’t mean to be there under the table. It seemed too late to get up and join everyone else. I slid myself back a bit and tried to hide, scared I was in trouble. I waited for the teacher to call out my name or a student to ask where I was. A minute passed, and then another. No one noticed that I was not in my seat with the rest of the class. The teacher did not see me or call our my name. Seemingly, no one cared. The bell rang and I got up and left with all the other kids, the question still lingering.
We live in an interesting time. It's hard to know where you belong. It can seem like we are being pulled to sort ourselves into “ideological bunkers”* of belonging with an ever growing list of defining truths. You are welcome if… How do we know where we fit? Brene Brown observes, “Belonging is not something we negotiate with the external world, it’s something we carry in our hearts.”
When I was a teenager. I learned about the Heidelberg Catechism. Its first question is: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” The answer is “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” Maybe that's a better question - to whom do I belong? We belong to God. God has called us by name and declared that we are His. God notices us. God’s love for us is unconditional, true, and without end. This is the truth that I want to cling to. This is the truth that I want my children to know in the very core of their being. This is our true sense of belonging: whether we live or die, we belong to God. **
Belonging to God changes everything. We don’t have to turn to an ever-changing world to find our identity or our place. We belong body and soul, in life and in death, now and forevermore to Jesus Christ our Lord. This is something we can carry with us in our hearts — wherever we go, whatever happens — we truly belong.
*this phrase is used by Brene Brown