~ By William E. Paul ~
There is probably never a time in the course of a human being’s life that he or she does not experience some sense of belonging. And for the most part the awareness of this sense provides an individual with a genuine feeling of wellbeing! In fact, it may be that unless one experiences this sensation of belonging, to some degree, there can be no sense of feeling a true fulfillment in life.
Perhaps the earliest occasion on which a person senses that someone “belongs” is the expectant mother as she carries the precious, developing body of her imminent newborn!
Then, as the child grows up it senses the wonderful experience of belonging to a family (in most cases) and proudly speaks of “my” dad, “my” mom, “my” brothers or sisters, or “my” family. Up to that point in its life no other allegiance is so cherished.
Of course, during those formative years a number of other associations vie for a place in one’s affection or loyalty . . . “my” high school/college, “my” class, “my” teacher, “my” baseball team, or “my” state.
Then comes probably that most beloved and cherished belonging experience of all, when one can proudly speak of “my” girl, or “my” boyfriend . . . which with many often eventually becomes “my” wife or “my” husband. In fact, in speaking about relationships, our language often uses such terms as “he’s mine,” or “she’s his.” How well I remember the first time in conversation that I was able to use the phrase “my wife.” My beloved spouse was “mine” for 62 years (and then she went to be with the Lord)!
Perhaps the next strongest tie of belonging would be that of the birth of a child. How happy is the day when the new parent can speak of “my” son or daughter! In many families the sibling bond is also formed or enhanced in early adulthood as the sense of loyalty to “my” brother or “my” sister develops.
Unfortunately, we sometimes fail to fully appreciate our attachment to a family member that produces a belonging to us until it’s too late, and they leave us.
Then there are other connections we acquire in life . . . not necessarily blood or marital ties . . . which significantly cement relationships. The military fosters a “band of brothers,” with that phrase dating back at least to British Admiral Horatio Nelson’s captains at the 1798 Battle of the Nile. In modern times, in literature and film, the phrase has come to refer to “a close-knit group of fighting men.”
But then, unfortunately, as age and disability take their toll, the sense of belonging tends to wane . . . at least we experience fewer such ties.
The death of one’s spouse is undoubtedly the most traumatic realization of losing the sense of belonging. Others are the passing of parents, children, siblings, friends, neighbors or business associates. As time passes, fewer and fewer are those persons or associations to whom we had sustained a relationship that could be characterized as belonging. Family members grow up and move away, or become engrossed in their own activities and contemporaries become physically debilitated, confined or meet with their inevitable appointment (Hebrews 9:27).
Fortunately, there are caregivers and assisted living personnel who are able to furnish some sense of belonging to seniors, the lonely or the handicapped. Bless those who find it in their hearts to render much-needed service at times like this to those who need it.
Also, hope in the afterlife affords a sense of belonging far exceeding any relationship experienced here. That we can anticipate with increasing joy!