More on Belonging

I'm still preparing these talks on belonging and friendship for the MK camp. In my research on the internet, I came across this personal story. The person's name is not Christine - I've just named her that for my own purposes.

If you're new, foreign or different, how do you approach the task of settling in, fitting in, belonging, finding friends, finding connections... whatever you want to call it?

Here are the words of "Christine'', several years after she switched countries. She doesn't sound like a happy camper.

‘Having left my friends overseas, I’ve made some new acquaintances, but because time spent with them is very limited, there isn’t the same level of friendship with them that I’ve had with older friends.

To some extent this is true anywhere, since once you begin your career, you simply have less time to spend with your friends because of work schedules, moving, marriage, general busyness, etc.

The biggest difference, however, lies in not having memories or personal history to reminisce with someone about. When the conversation turns to something or someone you’ve never heard of, or never experienced, your interest naturally wanes because you can’t identify with it.

This prevents friendships from growing or deepening, and results in ‘surface relationships’. In this regard, I still feel very disconnected from both people and churches.’

What is the essence of Christine's problem?

Firstly, I don’t think Christine understands the different ways you can belong at all. On this blog I've mentioned the 'four spaces of belonging' several times. They are: public, social, personal and intimate.

I think Christine is pinning all her hopes for belonging on one or two spaces.

She is effectively saying, ‘only the personal and intimate spaces are valuable relationships. The public and social spaces don’t matter. In fact, they are second best because they are only ‘surface relationships’.

Secondly: I don’t think Christine really understands all that is true about the Trinity and relationships. To relate to others the way God intended us to relate, we need to hold three things in balance: togetherness, difference and interdependence.

Christine loves togetherness. But she doesn’t really understand how difference can be a part of togetherness. She’s allowing her difference to be a separation from others, rather than a means of enjoyment. And she is not experiencing any interdependence. She doesn’t need the people she’s got around her. And she’s not allowing them to need her. There’s very little real give and take.

Poor Christine. Many people, especially those who have moved around a lot, know how she feels. But the reality is, we don’t have to feel that way, at least not forever.

If we start now to understand how belonging works, and what we can do to make it happen for us, we won't have to have a personal story like Christine's for too long.