Jon and I have been reading the Tales of the Kingdom series to our children lately, a trilogy of books written by David & Karen Mains. We have been drawn into the allegory as much as our children have been! In addition to enjoying the stories and what they communicate about following Jesus with our lives, I have been pondering a recurring theme: that of belonging.
Early on in the series, an orphan hunter who works for the evil Enchanter, comes to Great Park where the King’s people live. She is hunting for two orphan brothers, to bring them back to the city to work for the Enchanter as slave labor. Mercie, who cares for the children of Great Park, tells the orphan hunter that there are no orphans… all children who live in Great Park belong to someone. The message is clear: it’s the belonging that makes them safe. To not belong is dangerous, makes one vulnerable– they call it being a “one only.”
I understand and value community. I understand the danger in alone-ness. And frankly, I do not like feeling lonely (who does?). But as I have contemplated this idea of belonging to another, something in me resists it. I am independent by nature. I need my space. At times I need to make a decision for me… on my own. How far does belonging go? Does it cross the lines I draw around my soul for privacy, dignity and sacred space? I have known belonging to create safety, but I have also known it to cause harm. Sometimes there is danger in belonging too much to another. We can lose ourselves.
After more than 12 years of marriage, I have learned something of what it means to belong to another… to lay down my rights, to make difficult decisions as a pair, to speak what I know to be true and then listen without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. We are two very different people who have somehow created a loving life together. I belong to him as fully as I am able, yet I am still distinctly me… and he celebrates that. He belongs to me as fully as he is able, and yet he still uniquely him… and I celebrate that. It is a journey, though. It takes arduous inner work for me to hold on and let go. Then again, often it is a happy adventure!
In almost eight years of parenting, I have also learned about belonging. Giving my time, my full attention, my whole presence to them; does not come easily to me. I crave space and silence and stillness, as I get older. Yet I belong to them, at least in part… a very large part. And they teach me such wonderful things when I pay attention. Why do I fight that?
I have moved in and out of faith communities during the course of my life, and I wonder if I prefer that mode of belonging. If I can imagine a possible end to the belonging, I can stomach the sacrifices a bit easier– I am not saying this is right. I am simply wondering if it is true. Would I rather pop in and out of belonging (which is not really, truly belonging at all), so that I can keep my ideas my own and protect my rights… so that I can avoid true love and genuine transformation? Why am I afraid that truly belonging means losing myself, disappearing? I find I do not like this part of me, the fickle and uncommitted part who is distant, protective. But there is learning and growing to be done if I am patient with me and continue to choose belonging… and turn from being a “one only.”