Sometime in early 2019 as I was meandering through my favorite Seattle bookstore, a book jumped off the shelf and landed purposefully in my hands. The book is Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness – the Quest for our True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Interestingly enough, I never got around to reading it until a year later as the COVID shelter at home order overtook our lives in a way we could have never expected.
The question that really rocked my world is one that seems especially critical now: “What is “true belonging”?” Brown posits that belonging is both a primal and innate human desire to be part of something larger than ourselves. Is the hunger to belong, at least in part, at the root of the divisive upheavals we find ourselves mired in today?
God’s Word and Holy Scripture speaks profoundly of our belonging. Indeed right from the beginning, God said, “Let us make human beings in our image to be like us” (Gen 1:26). The very word “us” implies an intimate and holy belonging. Jesus himself prayed “That all will be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father and I am in you. And may they be in us.” (John 17:21) How much more true belonging could we imagine than that? Paul tells us: Everything belongs to you and you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to you.” (1Cor 3:21) Wisdom speaks “I am my beloved’s and my beloved in mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3).
We have come to a time and place where we are utterly oriented around group membership, political and religious doctrine and ideology. We are over identified with fitting in and we are drowning in “I’m right (smart)” and “You’re wrong (stupid)”. My group is “in”; your group is “out”. Talking heads are idolized. Listening has become a dead art. We are mired in deafening rhetoric, “consensus reality” and “group think”. We have utterly forgotten to whom we truly belong. We have lost our focus and our way.
Isaiah implores – ‘Listen to me…pay attention you who are far away! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name” (Isa 49:1) Whose voice is it that calls me by name and reminds me to whom I truly belong? What is the one thing being asked of me? Not the top ten, not the top five but THE ONE THING. Jesus said of Mary of Bethany as she sat at his feet and listened, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about.” (Luke 10:42)
I believe that in this time of chaos and confusion you and I must ask ourselves some tough and powerful questions. For example, “Who am I and whose am I?” The psalmist says “Be still and know.” (Psalm 46:10) As I become still and reflect, I notice the desire to listen to the One Voice. I find the myriad of other voices to be either noisy distractions at best and lies at worst.
Then Brown raises the real challenge. Am I willing to belong so completely to the TRUE Giver of All Life that I will share my True Self with the world? Am I then willing to stand alone in the wilderness that is the world. For true belonging is to the Body of Christ. Standing firmly and solidly in true belonging is both a living and a dying. How willing am I? Really?