The Power Of Belonging
She didn't come to the gate like her brother and sister. Huddled in the back of the kennel she shuddered, not from cold but fear. The attendant opened the door and tried to coax her out but eventually had to pick her up and bring her to the showing room. I reached down to pet her and she rolled over, tail tucked between her legs, in a submissive posture. She peed from the anxiety.
Her name was Ebony. At six months old she and her siblings had been on the road, nobody knew how long. The buck shot wounds throughout her body and muzzle indicated the kind of life she had been living. Ebony's response was typical of the trauma she had experienced. My heart went out to her and I believed I could give her a loving home.
I renamed her Mysti. When she came home she responded hesitantly to my children's affection, rolling over in the same fearful submissive manner. None-the-less, as the days turned into weeks, and weeks months Mysti accepted her new pack and came out of her shell. No longer fearful she figured out her place in the pack, just above my youngest son.
When I took her to the twenty acres the church owned I let her run off leash. At first she stayed within ten feet, but with each trip she ventured further away from me. Yet, she was always aware of where I was and looked occasionally to make sure I hadn't left her. Sometimes I would hide and she would dart back to my last position until I was found. For thirteen years she was my faithful companion who knew she was loved and that she belonged.
Sin has a way of creating fear in our lives; a bad home life, an abusive encounter, even poor decisions that cost us jobs or relationships. Trust easily broken is difficult to mend. Outstretched arms that keep people at a distance comes in many forms. The comedian that is never serious, the shy and quiet person in the corner, the extrovert who bounces from conversation to conversation are different ways we keep people at a distance, from knowing us deeply.
Past experiences often keep us from feeling as if we belong. We want to belong. We want to be loved and cared for, but can we trust these people? Belonging is a risk. It means opening ourselves up to disappointment. It means reaching out to people with their own baggage and hoping they will accept us, just as they want to be accepted.
Jesus redeems us to belong to one another. He creates a new person who throws off the shackles of the past and clings to the grace and mercy of the cross. We are now able to love because God has loved us and shown us the way. Out of the darkness of loneliness and rejection we are brought into the light of unconditional love and acceptance.
We don't chose to belong to one another. As followers of Jesus we automatically belong to one another. The fear that the darkness of sin created disappears in the light. The Scripture says that perfectly love casts out fear. So, we tentatively wade into our new family, constantly looking back at Jesus and trusting that He knows what he is doing.
"I've been here before, Jesus. A different place and different faces, but the response was the same. I didn't feel like I belonged." You look over your shoulder and see your savior's face.
"Try again." He says. "They are as broken as you. Help them to feel that they belong and you will feel it too."
"But I am afraid." You say.
"Fear not, I am always with you." He reaches out and the Spirit nudges you to get involved with the people you belong to.
I belong to these people and they belong to me. We work together to figure out how we fit together, but we are home and I am free and unafraid. I'm just saying.