Wandering and feeling separate, alone, cut-off, or just lost from the life-giving connection with the human family is one of the hardest experiences we can know. Ever been there? Ever felt like you didn’t belong somewhere, or anywhere? Ever known the loss of that all-important sense of belonging after having believed you were a part of a community?
Some of our LGBT friends have known this sad sense of not belonging much of their lives. Many people of color have too. So have many women as women, and sometimes men as men, and so have some people with disabilities. So many people experience the loss of belonging in their marriages or partnerships. Eventually, most everyone might find themselves in a time of being adrift, wandering alone, disenfranchised from the nourishment of knowing we belong.
The people of Israel surely experienced the archetypal “wandering in the wilderness” repeatedly, which most of us might experience eventually. In Psalm 107:1-7, the psalmist describes the joy of crossing over from the life of wandering – into Home. The writer knows to be grateful to The Giver of community and belonging. I wonder if you have wandered into Home yet?
Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, that mystic of the cosmos who was best known for seeing the divine in all of the natural world, saw into the heart of the Sacred Journey when he discussed “a divine allurement,” as God calls us Home through the very world around us. He reminds us that God is drawing us into our True Home in God so that we can be ever in communion.
If a sense of not belonging is the problem, Tielhard says finding the Presence luring us in the world all around us is a solution. But communion through nature is surely not the only way we are divinely lured. For we can feel at home in the natural world and still be lonely for people.
Some of the earliest Christian thinkers, referred to as the Cappadocian fathers of the third and fourth centuries, said that “God is a circle dance (perichoresis) of total outpouring and perfect receiving among three intimate partners.” Now that’ll blow your mind, as ideas about Trinity always do. So Richard Rohr tries to simplify this mystery by saying, “ God is relationship itself and known in relationship…a communion, Interbeing itself.” It is such good news to know that we who have wandered afar are being lured into relationship by the divine, and that we are being drawn into and through relationship with people.
For all of us who have known that sense of having wandered from the fold, who have become lost in the land of not belonging anywhere, don’t we need to find our way Home in community? People who land in our spiritual community have often found ourselves disenfranchised from a specific church, or denomination, or even from religion itself.
Our spiritual search has never diminished. We just had to wander away from some place that no longer fit us, no longer felt like home. Some of us had to search for home for a very long time. Some of you might still be looking. If so, know you are in good company. And let us offer a little real hope: there is a spiritual Home for you, and it might be just under your nose.
Story: A homeless man got off the streets of New Orleans to seek treatment for an alcohol problem in a half-way house run by my friend Mike. In the spirituality group Mike asked one of his favorite questions: “What’s the difference between religion and spirituality?” Several group members took a stab at answering with flowery definitions.
The disheveled older man in the corner bided his time. He kept his head down. Mike couldn’t tell if he was even listening. So he eventually asked him, “Jake, how would you define spirituality?” Jake paused for a minute, then looked Mike straight in the eye, and with a small, toothless grin he said, “Belonging.”
You know “the spiritual journey is not meant to be lived in isolation. We need a place to belong, just as we are. We need a community where there is no judgment. We want to gather with people who are also seeking the Presence….We are seekers of belonging: belonging in our own skin, belonging in the kingdom of a God who lives in the real world, belonging in a community of seekers who need each other’s support and help.” (From Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture). And so look around you. I believe we are forming just that kind of community.
We set out to create a home “where Jesus and ALL his friends would be welcome” in our Parker United Methodist Church, in New Orleans. We have known what it is to wander away from “human habitation,” to lose our sense of belonging in a community. So we decided to form our own kind of community right here where any wanderer would be welcome. If you are here now – then I believe God has led you “straight to human habitation” too, right into this home for ALL sinners and saints. If you have known what it is like for your soul to be “fainting within you,” then I believe you have found a place where your soul can be revived and can thrive. Thanks be to God, so have I!
I close with a challenge: there are so many people who have also “wandered into the desert, into the wasteland,” who can’t “find their way to a community. They are hungry and thirsty” for belonging, and “their lives/souls/spirits are slipping away.” You know they need what we are creating, a place to wander into Home. They don’t have to come to our church for worship on Sunday mornings. We have at least ten groups meeting every week, here and around this city, through our School for Contemplative Living. These people are also wanderers of every type who are wandering into home together. And in every single group there is space for new wanderers.
Won’t you be on the lookout for those who are longing for belonging this week? And will you tell them you know a place where they can finally wander into home and be accepted just as they are? We have room in our hearts for other wanderers, and space in our chairs, and we need their stories too. But who will let them know where they too can wander into Home?