We know we belong somewhere by how others approach us and engage with us; as we approach others and engage with them so they feel they belong.
Belonging is a feeling as much, at least, as anything we can know. When we feel we belong we know we belong.
Belonging is just about as important a concept for life as any.
When we belong—and are therefore loved, or feel loved—we are happy and we enjoy the hopefulness of spiritual abundance. When we don’t belong—and therefore feel unloved and not accepted—we are worse than unhappy. A significant part of us, a social part, shrivels and begins to die.
We need to belong.
The good news is—no matter how much you’ve felt you didn’t belong—the church exists so you can feel you belong. That’s not saying we feel we belong in every church setting, or even most. Many people have been hurt by church experience where they felt they didn’t belong. I’ve felt this many times.
But still, the church is purposed by Jesus to be a vibrant caring community where all who seek God, under Christ, can belong—notwithstanding differences.
The Cause and Effect Nature of Belonging
We cannot truly feel we belong without faith.
This is because, in most situations, people don’t make a special effort to connect with us, just as we don’t make a special effort to connect with other people, either. We are socially conscious beings—perhaps too much—and we shrink from social situations more than we should. We like to be comfortable in our comfort zones.
It’s not like the other person doesn’t like us; it’s because few of us are truly wired to take risks in social settings. The tragic irony is we need to take risks (of faith) when in social situations, because we can only belong when we go out of our comfortable way to ensure others belong.
Yes, that’s right, we fit in when we make an effort to ensure others fit in—when we show some leadership. Such leadership is loving and endearing; it has an attractiveness all its own in the context of belonging.
When others see us loving them, not because we have to but because we want to, they are won to the authentic charisma in such love. Then, their love reaches out to us in return. Belonging, this way, starts from us. Others reciprocate and then we know we belong.
Belonging is our deepest living need. By belonging we feel loved and happy—connected to our world. From this sense of belonging come hope, purpose and meaning. The church exists as a vibrant caring community where all types of people can feel they belong; to each other and to God. We belong to God in any event.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.