Belonging

I was at the grocery store the other day and I had a not so pleasant experience that broke my heart.  As I was shopping in an aisle, this mom or caretaker comes briskly walking past me while stating to their (what appears to be) 4 and 6 year old “you two are so #%$!*^ slow!” And yes it was the big dog of all curse words.  But the actuality of the situation was they were trailing right behind her full-length adult strides.  It was more than evident to me that she was just plainly put out to even have to deal with the two little boys. My heart was greatly saddened and angered all at the same time.  She never even noticed my look of disappointment as she walked by me with her words falling upon my ears.  I had to work really hard at remembering she is God’s daughter who had led a different story than mine and deserves hope and redemption just like I did. But that incident led me to thoughts about family and church, what it means to be a part of a natural family or a church family, and the responsibilities we say yes to in a being a part a natural family or a church family.

When we become a part of a church body, you are simply saying yes to being a part of a big family.  And in a family everyone has a part to play, a responsibility to fulfill, and everyone has needs of connection and a sense of belonging.  But I do think that to be able to believe in the family unit and what they stand for and to behave according to their belief system, you need to have connection and a sense of belonging first.   Because nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. But just as much as the church family needs to provide a culture of belonging and connection, we as individuals also have a responsibility to understand how to connect and the importance for us belong in a church family.  This is vital and necessary so that the family of God can flourish at its full capacity and you can grow fully into the individual God intended you to be.  Our heavenly Father hard wired us for connection.  You were not meant to be a loner.  You may have bought that lie but even the first book of the bible when God created the heavens and the earth He stated in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for man to be alone.”  And Jesus was never alone.  He even went after the twelve apostles; inviting them into His inner space to be close to Him even when He knew one of them was going to betray Him.

So what is connection?  According to Brene Brown, a social work researcher, in her book Daring Greatly says connection is allowing yourself to be seen because you believe you are worthy of love and belonging.  She says you are able to live from a sense of courage and authenticity to tell your story of who you are with your whole heart by letting go of who you think you should be and live in a place of courage and authenticity of who you are even though you know you are imperfect, fail sometimes, and make mistakes.  These people are still able to be kind and compassionate to themselves and to others.  She also says these people fully embrace vulnerability.  According to Brown she says vulnerability is defined as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.  It’s the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.  She says these people know vulnerability is necessary for connection.  They understand that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.  Vulnerability is the willingness to say I love you first, to step out and do something where there are no guarantees, or making your emotions or needs known in a difficult situation. But a killer to connection and belonging is being fearful that you are not worthy of connection while holding onto control and predictability as your safeguards.  And another killer to connection is believing the lie that you can have intimacy without commitment. This is called a Judas spirit.  Most of us know who Judas was and how his need for intimacy without commitment ended for him.  It wasn’t pretty.  If you don’t know, you can read about him in Matt. 27:3-5.

So where do you fall into all of this understanding of connection and vulnerability?  Are you lacking in your ability to connect and belong? Do you know how to create a culture of connection and belonging for others to participate in?  I am sure many of us fall in the middle of Brown’s explanation of connection and belonging.  But we all need to be brave enough to face the fact where we are failing and be willing to listen to the Lord and allow Him to bring healing to our lives in that particular area so we are a beneficial part of the church family God has placed us in. You may be imperfect and struggle but you are definitely worthy of love and belonging.  So I dare you to embrace connection and vulnerability letting yourselves be deeply seen for who you are, to love with your whole heart, and to be grateful to feel vulnerability because it means you are living and you are enough.

Michelle Preble
Transformation Center Director
NCWC

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