The Cost of Belonging

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On December 18 Mike and I packed his Saab station wagon with food, clothes, fishing rods, gifts, and Fred the dog, and set out for the shores of the Gulf of Mexico for the annual Christmas gathering of my extended family.

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The trip cost us a chunk of change in gas, tolls, and hotels, plus some wear and tear on the nervous system due to, shall we say, interpersonal challenges within the extended family. But we gladly sacrificed because belonging comes at a price.

The need to belong tugs at every heart because God designed us to function on the basis of intimate relationship, to love and be loved. He derived this design from Himself, for from eternity, the original family of Father, Son and Spirit lived in intimate closeness. “God is love,” not just in the sense of love extending from God, but love within God, between the Father, Son and Spirit. The very nature of God is love, with or without His creation.

But then God did create, and He created us like Him.

Because of our God-likeness, we posses, not just a capacity for love, but a demand for it. When our need is met, we thrive; when it remains unmet, we fail to thrive. Neuroscience screams this out to us in various studies, from the ones that show how children raised in a nurturing environment have higher IQs, to those that correlate loneliness with heart disease and cancer. Belonging entwines itself in the spiral-ladders of our DNA, reaching out in tendrils of longing from our cores.

We want to belong. We need to belong. So how to belong becomes the question. Clearly the human race fails at it. Strife lashes out everywhere, from the interpersonal to the global scale. We find ourselves, “hateful and hating one another” one description attests (Titus 3:3); another describes human beings as “alienated and enemies in your mind,” (Colossians 1:21). A quick perusal of the daily news validates these assertions.

So here we sit, alienated from one another and from God, opposed to the very need engraved on our DNA. We can’t extricate ourselves without a Savior. But qualifying Himself to save us cost Jesus something. The human race, under Adam, orphaned itself through sin and only through a new Representative, a second or “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), could we gain entrance into the heavenly courts. Jesus qualified Himself to become the last Adam by first joining the sinful race and then atoning for its sins on the Cross. This was the cost of our belonging.

Have you ever noticed the triadic expressions throughout the Bible?

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
“the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
“the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26.

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!” Isaiah 6:3

“O Lord, hear!
“O Lord, forgive!
“O Lord, listen and act!” Daniel 9:19

O Lord, O Lord, O Lord . . . Holy, holy, holy . . . these three-part exclamations punctuate the Old Testament, becoming more precise in the New, identifying not just the number, but the specific persons of Father, Son and Spirit in God (See 1 Cor. 12:4-6, 2 Cor. 13:14, 2 Thess. 2:13, 2 Thess. 2:13 and 1 Peter 1:2).

But a different kind of cry ascends from Jesus when on the Cross He takes upon Himself our alienated condition. He cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

My God
My God

Two instead of three. Baggaged with our sin, He finds Himself outside the circle, outside His eternal home, outside of belonging.

The Inseperable Trio of love, fractured. Father looking down in woe, present but not perceived, Spirit moaning with cries too deep to be uttered, Jesus orphaned and outcast, forlorn and despairing, the traumatic assault sufficient to make His internal organs to boil over in terminal grief.

The cost was commensurate with that which He bought. He bought belonging for us. He paid with His own belonging. In Christ, we belong to the most elite family in the universe, soon to ascend with Him when He comes again.

Time to pack for the journey.

8 thoughts on “The Cost of Belonging

  1. Anonymous

    Hi Jennifer, this was so needed! How beautiful! Sometimes I just feel like I don’t belong anywhere.

  2. Ray Hartwell

    Powerful. I really appreciate these insights.

  3. susan

    Wow. I had never before thought about these triadic expressions as referring to the 3 members of the Godhead, or of Jesus twice saying “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” because He was outside of the circle and that during the time that Jesus was on this earth, the circle of the trinity was broken. Profound thought. So God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit also suffered while Jesus was walking this planet. Even though there was communication, it was not the unbroken communion of delighting in each other as it had been in the heavenly courts.
    Amazing. Brings tears.

  4. Rollin Hixson

    thank you for your thoughtful insights. I have always enjoyed the things that you write.

  5. Heather

    There is so much talk about love. How many people who have no one (there are a lot of us) have you invited into your home and heart lately?
    Too busy with family, “ministry” , etc.? People are not saved in mass-they are saved by individual, personal effort.

  6. Brad Jones

    Thanks for your post. Belonging is such a vital part of just plain living though living is never just plain. The human heart longs for a sense of purpose and without it, life lacks a sense of meaning. You’re right about God placing this sense of longing within us because we are made in His image and the Trinity shares this belonging on the most profound and intimate levels. Our world is fractured and suffers from its own choices of self indulgence, self importance, and self absorption. We see this like played out like a symphony performing grossly out of tune with musical scores with no harmonizing melodies. Hard to imagine how awful this sounds, but this is what God hears and sees everyday the earth circles the sun.

    Jesus was willing to be fractured in the most painful and heart-wrenching manner to spare us the agony of a permanent severance; something He desires none of us ever to know. Because Jesus knows first hand what it feels like to be ripped apart from the a union that has existed from eternity, He has given us two of the most beautiful words in the human language epitomizing so well what He is all about; reconciliation and restoration.

  7. Brenda

    So needed to hear this. It always inspires me how God used others to bless each other. Thank you Lord, Thank you Jill!

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