Formations 08.01.2021: A Time to Belong

Matthew 18:1-6; 19:13-15

We all want to feel that we belong. In fact, we fear not belonging. From those first moments of playground choices to school lunchroom seats to office conversations over the tops of cubicles, we are often afraid of being excluded. What if she doesn’t pick me for her team? What if he changes seats when I sit next to him? What if I’m not funny enough to hang with my coworkers?

From the very beginning, belonging is essential to our mental health. There are studies showing that “the nature of [young children’s] family relationships profoundly influences their experiences in both health and illness” (Rees, “Childhood attachment”). From birth, babies need to feel secure, comforted, loved, and nourished. In homes where these essentials are missing, children grow up profoundly affected in negative ways. In homes where these essentials abound, most children grow up with a positive sense of self and are able to contribute to society in meaningful ways.

Jesus knew about the malleability of children. He knew that they trust easily, are curious, and are eager to please. Perhaps that’s why he urged his followers to “change and become like children” (Mt 18:3). Regardless of our childhood experiences, most adults reach a stage of life where we are resistant to change. We feel set in our ways. We’ve learned the nature of the world and adapted to it, and now we’re firmly planted. It’s hard for us to imagine being different.

But the life of faith demands constant adaptability, humility, and a willingness to change. We are never to think we know it all when it comes to our Christianity. Instead, we are to be like children: humble, trusting, and eager to please Christ in all that we do. When we want to belong somewhere, we need to look no further than the kingdom of God. God invites all of us in…if we can become like little children. Our longing to belong will be satisfied when we approach our faith with the attitude of a child.

Discussion

• What was your family like? Did you have a sense of belonging? If not, where else did you feel that you belonged?
• Today, where do you feel like you most belong? Why?
• How do you feel about children in the church? What is their place? How are they welcomed (or not) in your worship services?
• Why do you think the disciples seemed so dismissive of children, and why did Jesus think it was so important for them to do better?
• How can you nurture a sense of belonging for others who come into your community? How can you cultivate a child-like faith in yourself?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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Comments

  1. Pat Chandler says

    Thank you for your thoughtful and appropriated questions.
    A real life experience from today’s world is very helpful for those of us who have limited technology skills or limited time.

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