I was forwarded this article by my lovely wife, Marta. It’s a great article that clearly details the plight many church leaders face today in watching their students slowly lose their faith in a post-high school world. I liked the many parallels to William Wilberforce’s time…a person could make many of the same statements today. Although I think it’s also important to stress the many ways I see post-high school grads living out and running toward their faith as well…those college students who choose other priorities over just partying, drinking, and sleeping in on Sunday….those post-high school grads who find a spiritually-nurturing community amidst jobs, studying, classes, or just goofing off…those young adults who make a conscious choice to live a life that might seem strange to some of their peers that sets them apart as an example to others of a lifestyle that’s healthier spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally. A conversation about why students abandon their faith is a great one we should be having but let us not overlook those young searchers who are right in front of us demonstrating a faith more vibrant than we at that age.
Recently, I was asked to introduce a video that was created around the idea of Christian belonging. As I dug in, I found it exceedingly difficult to introduce this concept without sacrificing the depth of the topic for a more simplistic view like, “We all belong because God loves us. Kumbayah!” The more I read and looked into the topic the more solidified I became in my own definition. And here it is:
To me, belonging is a deep-rooted, emotional desire to engage and connect with others on an authentic, whole-hearted level that stems directly from a person’s ability to embrace their own self-worth.
It’s not a definition found in the dictionary, not even a definition likely held in majority opinion: this idea that belonging comes directly from our ability to recognize our own worth and to embrace it in a meaningful way. Still, I believe that through our own worthiness lies the key to belonging.
Famed author, speaker, professor, and presenter Brene Brown has dedicated almost 10 years of her life to studying vulnerability, shame, authenticity and courage. Out of her experience, she has this to say on the subject of belonging:
As I conducted my research interviews, I realized that only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their own worthiness. It’s as simple and complicated as this:
If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.
The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites.
Here’s what is truly at the heart of whole-heartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.
As Christians, we offer others a place of belonging in our church communities because Christ went first and said, “These people are worthy now. Not if they join. Not when they pledge. They are worthy of your love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”