Wednesday, June 26, 2013

THE BLESSING OF BELONGING: Article for Hot Springs Star published today

When I was growing up, my mother dated a gentleman for eleven years. She was waiting until he could overcome his issues with alcohol addiction before she married him. He died of exposure after a night of drinking in the middle of winter, passing out inebriated behind a school playground. He was 39 at the time. The same age I am right now.

One of my biggest struggles in grieving this man was that, even though he had been around more than my father, I had no claim to him. I did not belong to him by marriage or blood, nor did he belong to I. And yet, even today, I wish that those bonds were there. I feel it that having some sort of belonging with him would validate my sense of loss.

I think we all need to belong to others, and have others belong to us. That is part of what we experience in families. It is part of what we experience in the practice of community. For this reason, among others, I think we underestimate what it means to be a part of a church family.

Churches are not buildings. Churches are not institutions. Churches are first and foremost communities of people covenanting together to love and worship God and each other. And they are, in my opinion, one of the greatest blessings God gave humanity.

You do not have to do life alone. You don’t have to try and figure out everything by yourself. You don’t have to feel lost, like you are wandering in the wilderness. You can find a group of people that know God, and know that God is love. You can discover a community of people who admit they don’t have it all together, and are not perfect, but are striving to live in obedience to one who is, namely Jesus Christ.

Being a part of a church family is not always easy, but it is almost always a gift of God’s grace. It teaches us patience and longsuffering. It teaches us love. The church teaches us accountability and forgiveness. Even more, it teaches us that despite our faults and our struggles, and how the world feels about us, if we are disciples of Christ we belong to God and to one another. And, that is truly a blessing.

So go out this week and find a church. A church that is filled with the Spirit’s love, the Father’s love, and is committed to following the way of Jesus as it revealed in the Bible. You won’t regret it. 

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