Since finishing the book Belong to Me last week, I’ve been thinking about the idea of “belonging”. It’s a notion that I’d previously relegated to the context of childhood or the angst ridden teenage years, as in trying to find your place within a peer group. But, in the book this idea arises from a woman in her mid-thirties and refers to belonging with her husband and family. Fascinating!
This has prompted me to question: What does it mean to belong?
One of the parenting books I’ve read recently advises that we raise our kids to know they belong in their family. Most teenage rebellion comes from kids thinking that their friends understand them better and that they belong with their buddies more than with their family. I really embraced this idea. It’s important to Dennis and me that Sienna and Mateo think of “the four of us” – our family unit, as the place where they most significantly belong. Just this week, Sienna was telling me and Teo about her friends at school not wanting to play the game she suggested. She felt sad – like she didn’t belong. As I gave her a big hug and said, “We’ll always want to play with you.” I thought about the idea of her belonging with her mom, dad, and brother. There’s a wonderful sense of security for kids when they are home with the people that love them unconditionally. I can already see Sienna making the shift between the comfort and freedom of home and being more cautious and guarded in other settings.
Living so far away from our extended family is sad at times. But, we make an effort to make Sienna and Mateo feel connected to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Belonging to a bigger family means a lot to us, even if we don’t see one another as frequently as we’d like.
This past summer, my heart about burst watching Mateo holding hands with his “big” cousin Kealan at Disneyland. They’d barely spent any time together before this trip and Teo instantly took to him. It was great to share that time with our little family, my mom, brother, and his soon-to-be wife (at the time), Leah and Kealan. The kids and adults all could sense that we belonged together.
When I first moved to San Diego after college, one of the hardest things for me was not having any girlfriends to hang out with. I recall lamenting to Dennis, “There’s no one I can call to just go meet a friend for coffee!” It’s great to have friends and especially wonderful to have a group of friends. All these years later, our church family is like a built in social circle and there are several amazing women that I can call for coffee, lunch, or a walk around the lake. Belonging with the Grace family feels great.
In the locker room at the gym last week, a few of us regular swimmers were chatting about Mother’s Day. As we said our goodbyes and “Happy Mother’s Day!” to one another, I smiled to myself. Here’s another place where I get the feeling of belonging. I’m part of this small group of women that come to this particular pool at this particular time. We chat, encourage one another, and have built a comfortable familiarity and community with one another.
Just like when you buy a car and suddenly notice that car model all over the place – now that I’m looking, I see examples of and references to belonging everywhere! While singing the Michael Card song Flesh of His Flesh to Mateo the other night, the lyrics hit me with new meaning:
Forever we’ll have one another
Because we belong to the Lord
And so we belong to each other
And that is our greatest reward
Truthfully, this last line has confused me over the years. Isn’t the greatest reward Christ? Or the salvation he has won for us? Theology aside, these lines highlight the most important place to belong – in the body of Christ. Our Pastor likes to remind the kids (and parents!) that our fundamental identity is as a citizen of God’s Kingdom. Just as we strive to have our children feel they belong with their family, Christ calls us to belong to His Kingdom above all else. Learning about the concept of vocation helped this verse make sense. God knows that we need one another to live in community and serve each other through our vocations within His Kingdom. Belonging to each other is the natural out flowing of belonging to Christ, as he provides for us through one another.
What does “belonging” mean to you?