Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Taking a quick break from the vacation posts with a random musing. Some of it relates to England, so those of you who just can't get enough will still be happy. All of this is a little raw in my head and by no means polished.

Belonging is a really strong feeling, and for me, a really strong need. One of the greatest things about our time at the Northumbria Community was the almost immediate feeling of belonging. It's the first time I can remember really understanding the term "family of God" in an almost literal sense. These were the uncles and cousins that had been hiding in England. There was an immediate comfort and bond with them. This just got stronger as we prayed together and had long talks over scrubbing potatoes. But, it also got stronger over laughter at the dinner table.

I know it was only two days and that wasn't nearly long enough to discover that all of them are messy humans too, but there was something there. An ability to accept and be vulnerable to one another. They opened up their community just because we said we wanted to learn more. They brought us in, just as we were.

Leaving Northumbria was hard, but two days later we went to Liverpool where we met up with the 24/7 prayer folks. In a small room tucked away in the far corner of the Liverpool Cathedral we talked and prayed with Gary and Dawn. Again I felt an immediate bond with these people. Like I belonged as part of this in a way that's hard to explain. These people were part of my family too.

This is all fresh on my mind because of my community here at home. I moved to this area two years ago, but it was a year ago that I really started building community here. It started on a car ride coming back from a conference talking about what a small group should look like and what we were willing to do to make that happen. Since then it's grown, often in unexpected directions. My small group has become much closer as we intentionally make time for one another and spend time together.

I've also been part of another group that is based around prayer. I'd say a common vision for prayer in our area, but I'm not sure we always have that. I've spent large numbers of hours praying with these people and sharing what's really going on in my life. It's been a scary road with both this and with my small group. What if they discover I have faults (cuz that's a huge revelation!)? What if they decide I'm too much trouble?

I've felt a growing sense of belonging in both places. But recently I've been reminded that the feeling of belonging is so fragile My small group has been losing its smallness, which makes for growing pains and also a lack of closeness. Do I really belong when I hardly know half the people? Today something happened that swiped at my feeling of belonging in my prayer group. Both whether I would continue to feel accepted by them and whether I could ever feel I could belong with them.

I know we're called to live in community, but how far does that go? When does the need to belong take on a life of its own? What is too much to sacrifice? And if these people are my "family", then do I have any basis for leaving because I don't feel I belong any more? Do I belong even when I don't feel a sense of belonging?

The other piece of the belonging puzzle in my head is my not so distant memories of being part of an online community. When I discovered this particular online world I jumped in with both feet. Here was a place where people thought I was fun and funny. Doing a few projects and associating with the "right" people I quickly became a somebody and really felt that I belonged with these people. It was what high school would have been if I had been a cool kid. They made me feel special and loved. It was all false though because everything crumbled as quickly as it went up when the issue of faith came up and I wouldn't back down or deny it. It crumbled even faster when I started to question the spun sugar world around me. While I had felt like I belonged I really didn't. It was all a sham. Sure, I made a few friends along the way, but sometimes I'm not even sure about that. They've never had to deal with the messiness that is me.

So, what is real belonging and how do we find it? How do we know it's real when we find it? Is it ever something that lasts? What do we do if we feel it drifting away? Is belonging a purely human need and something we should try to rise above or deny?

I said it was raw, I didn't say I had answers.


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