This originally was an e-devo for Western Hills Church.
There is a restaurant in town that I frequent. The waiter knows my name. I know his. He often sees me as I enter the place. He waves his hand around which gives me permission to sit anywhere. He’ll bring the chips and salsa but not a menu. It’s not needed. He knows what I’m going to order.
Pollo de Crema. Flour tortillas. Rice. Beans. Water.
I BELONG to this place. I like it. It’s not perfect. John (my waiter) at times has been the only waiter in the place, and it’s crazy. He gets busy and overwhelmed. But the food is very good, and John has the perfect blend of filling our drinks and leaving us alone so that we can talk.
It took some trials and errors on finding my favorite dish. I asked the staff about their favorites. I tried them all. John will sometimes bring out stuff that’s not on the menu for me to try. I almost always say yes.
Folks that grab lunch with me at this place make fun of me, but I see the jealousy. I know they would LOVE to walk into a restaurant and have the waiter know their name, know their order, and give them free reign to sit where they want.
It’s fun. It looks easy.
Myth #1 of Belonging: Belonging is easy.
Belonging is anything but easy. It is work. It takes time, effort, and intentionality. It costs something to belong: lots of conversations, lots of trials and errors, lots of – taste this, what about this.
And you know that we’re not just talking about my favorite restaurant anymore, right?
Everyone wants to belong.
Everyone is wired to belong.
Everyone will find something to belong to.
But not everyone understands that real, deep, unconditional belonging takes work. It doesn’t just naturally happen.
“I don’t feel like I belong. I don’t feel as close as we used to be.”
Well let’s play cards, grab a meal. Let’s do this Bible study. Let’s serve here together.
“Oh. I can’t. I’ve got this event, this game, this show, this condition, this trip, this something.”
It’s a conversation repeated often in the context of dating relationships, marriages, friends – you name it.
There is a need for belonging. There is an initial connection and hope for belonging. Then there is another level to belonging that is desired BUT… the cost is too much.
This is where it gets real. We want the benefits of belonging. At some point we have to decide whether or not we are willing to pay what it costs to belong.
This is the nature of all relationships. And it’s not bad. It’s just reality.
You can’t expect to have a great marriage if you are never home. Never go out. Never talk. Never just sit and hang with each other.
You can’t expect to have a great friendship that way either.
Our relationship with Jesus and the church is no different.
This isn’t a negative thing. Not at all. I love going to my kids’ activities, their games. I love my Connect Group. I love having that crew over to play games, eat ice cream, and grill. LOVE IT.
It takes time to do all of that. It takes some energy. It takes a little planning. Actually it takes very little planning in our family as we are about as ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants’ kind of people as you can meet.
The reward is belonging. The reward is not just having a place where folks feel like they fit, but a place where they can argue, cry, laugh, celebrate, hide-out, and mourn.
This kind of belonging doesn’t happen overnight. And the responsibilities go two ways. Both sides have to commit to the process and be willing to make the investment.
That’s the question that often goes unasked and unanswered in our search for belonging. What’s it really worth to us? Some discomfort? Some awkwardness? Some time? Some effort? Some adjusting of the schedule?
Here’s the great news. It’s worth it.
Even with the mess-ups and hurts, it’s better than living in isolation. The relationships are deep. There is a richness to life that it brings. It’s fun!
But it isn’t easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.