“Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” Brene Brown in Braving the Wilderness
Some people join churches to gain a wedding/baptism/funeral venue. And some join because it eases entry into a good preschool. Or maybe we actually join in hopes of truly belonging to a community of people who love us no matter what and who remind us that God loves us no matter what.
Loneliness is a killer. John Cacioppo, who died last month, studied the effects of loneliness and said, “Chronic loneliness increases the odds of an early death by 20 percent which is about the same effect as obesity, though obesity does not make you as miserable as loneliness.” I often ask congregations, “What breaks God’s heart in your neighborhood?” and more than one church has answered with one word: isolation.
We are an isolated people in terms of truly belonging. Although we might have hundreds of social media friends, how many of us have 3 people we could call in the middle of the night to come over because we are a wreck?
Brene Brown writes in Braving the Wilderness that belonging to ourselves is the most important kind of belonging – which is uncomfortable for someone like me who believes that “in life and in death, we belong to God” first and foremost. But what she means is this: we live in a fitting-in culture and we need to love and accept ourselves to the point that we don’t need to fit in.
We deserve to belong because of who we are – not in spite of who we are. But it takes work and vulnerability to become who God made us to be.
The best kind of church is a spiritual community that not only allows people to be the people God created us to be, but encourages people to be the people God created us to be. God created us to serve God by serving each other. God created us to honor God by honoring each other.
I want to belong to that kind of church.