Friday, November 18, 2011

Elements of Community - Sense of Belonging

Belonging speaks to our sense of identity. Defining self in relation to the people with whom we are connected seems somewhat off by contemporary standards. Instead, personal identity is perceived as a rather individual and autonomous pursuit, something you discover alone on some remote mountain in Southern Asia. However, do any of us truly arrive at an accurate assessment of self without the context of Jesus and His body? I believe that I demands the context of a He and an Us. Consider this. All the ways I define myself depend on others in some way. My gifts are only gifts because they serve someone else - not my ego. My weaknesses and limitations surface because of my interaction with those around me. My love needs a Source and an object. Any attempt to articulate who I am will result in dragging you and God into the conversation. This sounds suffocating. However, the fact that my identity is inextricably tied to God and His people does not mute my individuality. Instead, it accentuates it, creating an opportunity for its expression. Healthy communities seem to transmit this sense of Us while acknowledging we are His. resonates with this vertical and horizontal sense of belonging. In this way, we depart from Cain's path. Where he stepped back from God and balked at being his brother’s keeper, we must embrace such. (Hosea 2:2, Neh 2:1-4; Ruth 1:15-18).

As for the Sombra Road house, I see this sense of Us in the way we define victories and defeats. Paulo gets a job, and Claudinho celebrates with the same enthusiasm as Paulo. Claudinho breaks up with his girlfriend, and Adilio feels it. It goes beyond just win-win. I also detect a sense of belonging in the way we deal with each other's junk. Each guy is called to pull their own weight, while overwhelming burdens are intended to be carried by all. These are not confused boundaries; the lines have merely been recast in light of the gospel.

I conclude with one final footnote on the sense of belonging essential to community, as this element of my past is etched on my memory as the essence of this concept of Us. When we were kids, my two younger brothers and I would make up all types of random games. My brother Brian was the chief architect, and his games all shared one common trait - all three of us were on the same team. He would set up the game in such a way so that the three of us were competing against an imaginary opponent - typically called the Yankees or some other team we generally disliked. Then, we'd play it out. Interestingly enough, we would not rig the game so that we would necessarily win. Sometimes we did lose, but we lost together. It's now a joke between us when we play a game as to whether we are going to play it straight up or Brian style. Still, I wish there were more room for Brian games in the way we live.

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