As I write this I’m sitting in a hotel room in Guarulhos, Brazil. Although it is my first time to visit Brazil, it has felt a little bit like coming home. Many of the customs and even some of the food remind me of Venezuela. I’m also blessed to have several students in my workshop who speak Spanish, so while I can only understand a modicum of their Portuguese, often we can communicate quite comfortably in Spanish. It is strange to sense belonging in a place I’ve never been before.

Belonging. It is developed through connection. It is fostered by familiarity. And it is a basic need of every human being.

When Joel first moved back into our home after 3.5 years in prison, he struggled to really feel like he belonged. For over three years our family had functioned without him; we had a routine that did not include or need him. We had belongings, and patterns, likes and dislikes that he did not share. We had experienced so many things without him that he could never identify with. And although Joel and I had been married for almost twenty years, for the first time in all those years, we felt like maybe we did not belong together.

The struggle to feel at home, within his own home, was not easily overcome. Nor do I write about it now with some clear cut steps or recommendations. One thing we both learned, and are convinced of, is that connection comes through vulnerability and humility. When we each attempted to take care of ourselves, and close ourselves off from needing the other, we drifted further apart. We failed to connect. But as we admitted our fears, our disconnection, our disillusionment, and grieved our losses together, we began to feel that connection being rebuilt. Another essential truth we learned through those very difficult months of adjustment is that our connection with God drew us closer to one another. As we each individually sought God in humility, desperate for His movement in our lives and situation, we experienced His drawing us closer together as a family.

Brene Brown, in her now-famous TED talk presentation on vulnerability says, “Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”  This simple but profound statement is expressed in the creation account. When God said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” He was confirming his design in us for connection.  And the first time Adam saw Eve and exclaimed over what a perfect fit she was for him, he felt like he had found where he belonged.  We feel like we belong when we are connected.

Ultimately, though, what gives true purpose and meaning in life is connection with our Creator. For God invites us into community and relationship with him. And that connection is what draws us into community with others, making it possible for us to experience belonging, even in the midst of brokenness.

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