Tonight my husband and I attended a gathering of people who have all experienced spinal cord injuries of some type. There were over twenty people sitting around the large square of tables, some in electric power chairs and some in manual wheel chairs. There was a physical therapist, two caregivers and a few others, like ourselves who where there in support of someone else in their life who was living with either illness or injury that had effected their spine in some way. (We actually were the “go-fers” at our daughter’s request since she is out of state this week and she wanted us to bring back some information.) As I looked around the room I couldn’t help but remember some of our first days at TIRR, the Rehabilitation hospital in Houston where Kelsey (and we) lived for several months while she learned the new skills she would need to maneuver – figuratively and literally – through life from a wheelchair. It struck me how comfortable it was to be there, in that group of strangers. None of us had identical stories, yet we all had enough in common to feel connected in ways that are hard to pin down. It just felt….familiar, I guess.
Most of us have one or more groups of people with whom we share common interests, whether it’s due to a hobby, like knitting or reading, or an activity like biking or walking. There are garden clubs and civic organizations, Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts. We meet at Starbucks to connect with friends or support a favorite charity by attending a fundraiser. It’s really not so hard to find people in “clumps” of interest….we are just naturally drawn to others who enjoy the things we do – or care deeply about the same causes. And we find a sense of belonging as we do, especially if we are seriously invested. I regularly attend church because I feel an intimate connection with the people I share that experience with, and together, we experience God. I wouldn’t trade that “group” for anything. (But you probably won’t find me at a support group for women who can’t stop exercising……I’m sure they’re out there, it’s just that I definitely would NOT belong!)
Whether it’s sports or books or projects or even church, we all want – and need places in our lives where we feel a sense of belonging – where we know we fit in and that we would be missed if we didn’t show up any more. I think this is what Jesus and his Disciples had, but, like any cohesive group, their bond didn’t just happen. It came from time spent together, grappling with the teachings of Jesus together, fending off critics together and dreaming of the new life Jesus promised them together. There were times when Jesus sent them out to do ministry, to test their wings, as Jesus knew he wouldn’t be with them for long, and he wanted them to be able to come back from all the places where they had been received, and many times not received, into a place of safety and belonging.
I challenge us, during these last two weeks of Lent, to consider those places we find belonging. Seek to deepen those roots by spending a little extra time on those relationships and causes that are important to us. But even more importantly, I challenge us to spend intentional time in building our faith, whether it’s in community with others, or private communion with God. We belong to Him, and through Him, to one another.