Reflection on Belonging

Every story begins with an opportunity for change. The threshold of choice. We look out in the sun, or the storm, and decide…do I take the step off of the porch into the unknown, where I know nothing, or do I turn around and go back into the house, the place I know?

Harry Potter. Yes, the kids have influenced me. Harry Potter becomes a Christ like figure. It’s why we love the “good” stories. They are familiar and comforting, even in the dialogue and setting of something new.

But before that, Harry Potter knows nothing. He is ignorant of even the basic knowledge or background of this new world. He has to obtain knowledge before he can even begin to attain Wisdom. He is a disciple. A student.

But before even that, he stands on the threshold of this new world. All he must do is step out of all he knows to be familiar to begin. His choice. We could say that he had no choice. The Dursleys are so awful, downright abusive, that he has no choice. But how often do we stay with the familiar, because even if’s it not safe, comfortable, or easy, it’s what we know. We turn our backs on the sunny day, or the storm, just off the threshold and go back inside the house because at least it’s what we know.

We’re in this space in between. There’s always something powerful about the places in Between. There are so many stories about the place between this thing and that thing. Between this place and the next place. Between this phase and the next phase. The transition phases where things are sometimes the most challenging. Where sometimes the most work needs to be done. Where we try on new version of who we are and discover more deeply who we are.

The disciples of Jesus are sitting is this place “between” right now in the calendar. Jesus has ascended into heaven, but has told the disciples to “wait”. What are we waiting for? We’re waiting for the Holy Spirit to come down to us. The Holy Spirit.

What does that mean? It’s part of the Mystery.

We can consider ourselves as disciples. We, too, might consider ourselves students of Jesus. Of Love. Of Grace in the world. We are earthly beings and spiritual beings. Humanly fallible and also spiritually perfect. Waiting on the mystery of the Holy Spirit to descend or awaken within us.

Perhaps these places in between, periods of waiting and transition, give us space to think and discover. Who are we? Why are we here? What are we meant to do?

Where do we belong?

Belonging. It’s easy to get lost along the way. I know I often liken spiritually with a good dose of self reflection and psychology. This work of getting into our minds and our hearts. Getting to the Truth of who we are so that we can present the best versions of ourselves to do good in our world. To walk the world in Grace.

This place of not knowing and not belonging is a really uncomfortable place. There’s a tension of belonging and not belonging. The friction of change. Tension of being ourselves and being who others would like us to be. Tension of being one thing and becoming another.

Maybe kids know this better than any of us. And our experience of being kids trying to discover who we are….among groups of other trying to discover who they are. We don’t quite yet know who we are and often where we belong. Do we belong with the art kids, the music kids, the sport kids, the smart kids, the bad kids, the good kids, the etc. etc. etc.? Maybe we belong in a little bit of both, but to “belong” we sometimes feel we have to choose, shedding pieces of ourselves to fit in to the place we most belong or maybe the place we don’t belong but want to belong or perhaps the place where others think we belong.

Many of us have probably tried to fit ourselves into a box that just didn’t quite fit.

This place of discovering and being lost. Maybe not lost, but the odd tension of belonging and not belonging. Trying to conform and yet never being able to conform. We aren’t cookie cutter beings. We are unique, beautiful, diverse beings. Both very human. And at the same time very perfect. But sometimes, this diversity creates a friction within ourselves and with others.

Sometimes, we find what works and we hold on to it for dear life and at all costs to avoid being in the place where we are unsure of who we are and where we belong. This is too often still informed by the confusion from being a kid. What do you want to be when you grow up? Some kids know this instantly. Others have gone through phases of president, veterinarian, doctor, police officer, pilot,….etc etc etc.

We can judge to protect ourselves. Instead of being open and listening. We can become like a little kid protecting ourselves to the detriment of creating places of belonging. Places that welcome. We can make it easier on one another…or harder. We can welcome and create places where everyone is welcome or we can close down and accept only those who are like us, those who fit in the box, and those who don’t challenge us.

Sometimes, it seems like it would be easy to be in a box of this is this and that is that. One denomination. One set of rules. Surrounding ourselves by people who don’t think differently or challenge us. But it’s also a really beautiful place to not have one set of rules and one path, but a diverse Way of being with one another. A place where it can be both easier and harder to feel a sense of belonging.

It’s a scary place, this place of Mystery. Of waiting. The unknown. Belonging and not belonging.

This is why it is so very important that our spiritual places, our churches and our hearts, are open to everyone. All are welcome to explore, discover, and challenge. Also to meet and greet and welcome and hold with gentleness and kindness. Favorite life quote: Be Kind, you have no idea what another person is going through. The older I get, the more I realize how deeply true this is.

Be kind, to ourselves and to others. The key in this place of tension is to ground ourselves. Perhaps in Prayer, in Grace, and in the Actions of Love. To see God everywhere and in everyone. The world (as ugly as it seems), in nature (as messy as it seems), in the more than human world (as wild as it seems), in the human world, in each other, and in ourselves.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that we are all God’s creation and creatures. It’s often easier to divide, but people are our practice and with wisdom, perhaps the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we come to know that it’s all one. One. God, Christ, and Us.

A last minute word: as I was writing this, one of the youngsters sent along a playlist with a particularly poignant song. The song was called Young and Sad by Noah Cyrus. I was reminded of how important this sense of belonging is for the health and wellbeing of well, everyone…one another. We really need to put in the deep work to transition out of this place where we box people in and in creating a sense of belonging for some of us, we exclude others. This sense of belonging is the key to mental health. The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s connection.

We need more connection.

We have work to do and that work is to cultivate more places where people can bring their confused, messy, ugly, scared selves together and…be welcomed. We have work to do to see grace and the divine in every person we meet. Yes, most especially the ones who challenge us and frighten us. Yes, most especially to not turn away from our struggling young ones, and the young within each of us, but to reach out and connect.

The masks are coming off. Let us create a better and more beautiful world.

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