The Longing for Belonging, part 2

The longing for belonging, we have seen, can be the enemy of true belonging, of resting in the awareness that it is impossible for you NOT to belong, that your belonging is inalienable.

But the longing arises nonetheless, doesn’t it? We have noted that your belonging does not depend on everybody knowing your name. You belong even if no one knows your name. Yet it still feels nice to be known, to be seen, to be respected, doesn’t it?

Take, for example, the neurophysicist that Brene Brown interviewed for her work on belonging. He told her:
“My parents didn't care that I wasn't on the football team, and my parents didn't care that I was awkward and geeky. I was in a group of kids at school who translated books into the Klingon language. And my parents were like, ‘Awesome!' They took me to the Star Trek convention!"
Dr. Brown concludes:
“He got his sense of belonging from his parents' sense of belonging, and even if we don't get that from Mom and Dad, we have to create it for ourselves as adults — or we will always feel as if we're standing outside of the big human party.”
If we don’t get that from Mom and Dad, we have to create it for ourselves as adults. If you can do that – if you’ve been doing that – developing your self-acceptance and strengthening the abiding awareness of your inherent belonging – great!

Maybe you’ve had some help along the way. If you didn’t get it from Mom and Dad, your belonging might have been affirmed by teachers, by trusted friends, by spiritual practices, by inspiring books like “You Belong” by Sebene Selassie.

Most of us could use a little help from time to time remembering the inalienable belonging that gives us the courage to stand apart. Maybe you could use a little help in appreciating that the unique beauty that is you belongs in the world. Here’s the thing. One of the best ways to get that help is to offer it to others. The way to feel more welcome and accepted and warmly received is to be welcoming, accepting, and warmly receiving.

And that brings us to the Jan Richardson poem that I started off this service with. She begins:
“You hardly knew how hungry you were to be gathered in, to receive the welcome that invited you to enter entirely — nothing of you found foreign or strange, nothing of your life that you were asked to leave behind or to carry in silence or in shame,”
Yes, that does feel good. And even if you know that your belonging is inherent, that it does not depend on others inviting you in – even if your self-acceptance is high and does not require the approval of others – it can begin to get hard if we have no sanctuary from people finding you foreign or strange.

Even if you know that your belonging is inherent, it does get hard to sustain that knowing in the face of unrelenting hostility, or even in the face of unrelenting indifference.

That hunger to be gathered in, to receive the welcome that invites you to enter entirely is not a hunger to be ashamed of. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed to be self-accepting and aware of your inherent belonging. You do belong, everything does belong, and your hunger also belongs.

If you have been coming back to this congregation for a while, long enough to have become a member, it’s because this place fed that hunger for, as Starhawk put it, “a circle of hands” that will “open to receive us, eyes [that] will light up as we enter, [and] voices [that] will celebrate with us.”

If you have kept coming back for a while now, it’s because this place has been a blessing. “But the deal with this blessing,” as Jan Richardson says, “is that it will not leave you alone, will not let you linger in safety, in stasis.”

As Reverend Lauralyn Bellamy says in words that those of you who have been coming regularly for a while have heard me say a number of times as the benediction:
“If, here, you have found freedom, take it with you into the world. If you have found comfort, go and share it with others. If you have dreamed dreams, help one another that they may come true! If you have known love, give some back to a bruised and hurting world.”
Because once you’ve found a little bit of comfort, the way to find more is to share it with others.

This blessing – this blessing of belonging and sanctuary – comes as seed of joy planted in your heart, and once planted it wants to grow. For it to grow you must become the sanctuary. The seed, as Jan Richardson wrote,
“desires for you to become the sanctuary that you have found — to speak your word into the world, to tell what you have heard with your own ears, seen with your own eyes, known in your own heart: that you are beloved, precious child of God, beautiful to behold, and you are welcome and more than welcome here.”
The seed of awareness of inherent belonging wants to sprout and grow and send forth new seeds of joy to plant in other hearts.

If you have ever found comfort and sanctuary, ease and acceptance here, then go ahead and bask in that for as long as you can – because you won’t be able to simply bask in it for too terribly long. It is the nature of this blessing that it will not leave you alone.

And if it seems to you that the ease and sanctuary of this place doesn’t feel quite like it used to for you, then you’re ready – ready for that next step. The way to feel more welcome and accepted and warmly received is to be welcoming, accepting, and warmly receiving. That means making our congregation a place more welcoming of people who have sometimes felt unwelcome. That also means the work of social justice – making the world a place of greater acceptance and celebration of diversity.

When we talk about injustice and oppression, it isn’t to make you feel bad. It’s to help you feel good, by lifting up the wonderful meaningful work there is for us to do together. If you need comforting, be a part of offering comfort to others – and justice to all. That’ll do it.

May it be so.

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