Perhaps my experience is different than everyone else’s. Perhaps the thing that my heart longs for more deeply than anything else is utterly unique to me. Perhaps my need for a sense of belonging that transcends my ability to “stay in the club,” is an utterly singular desire. But, perhaps I’m not alone. And perhaps, while we express it in different ways and we seek it in different places, that sense of belonging is something that, deep down, we all desperately need.
Some people find that sense of belonging within their families, and my own family is no exception…the Groseclose’s are warm and loving and welcoming to all sorts of characters. Growing up, my parents’ home was always one of the places that friends congregated and whoever happened to be around at 6:00 was always welcome to stay for supper. My extended family is also a warm and happy bunch of folks who will go out of their way to make you feel like family…even if you are not nor ever will be. It’s a good place to find belonging, but I am the consummate loner in that sense and have spent much of my life looking for belonging outside of this body.
Some people find belonging amongst their friends. And, as far as friends go, I have had some of the best. The group of guys that I grew up with used to define friendship as someone with whom you could trust your car, your credit card, and your girlfriend. And with them, I could and did. And, during my awkward and downright strange years, they just rolled with the punches and pursued me even when I wasn’t pursuing them. But, in most of those cases, the heart of our relationship centered around things we did together and over time, most of us have drifted in different directions.
Others perhaps find their sense of belonging in a job or amongst co-workers. I have been blessed to taste a little of that, but I have also bounced between jobs so much over the years that I have never really been in one place long enough to grow roots that deep — though it certainly appeals to me. A story is told of the relationship that Johnny Carson, Ed McMahon, and Doc Severinsen had not only while working together on the “Tonight Show” but off-stage and after they retired and moved on. They had worked together so long that their lives and families had become intertwined. A love had been built that transcended their common working relationship. I do think that sense of belonging would be wonderful, but so far, I have not stayed put long enough for that to develop (though perhaps, in God’s providence, I would like to see that change).
In the end, though, all of these connections that bring people a sense of belonging pass away with time. We live and we die and many of these connections do not and cannot transcend death. Perhaps that sense of belonging that I sought for so long can never be found in these temporal relationships. Perhaps that sense of belonging can only be found in one place: God himself.
In Biblical terms, that idea of belonging is typically referred to as an “Assurance of Salvation.” In other words, it is the assurance — the absolute conviction — that I find my belonging in Christ himself and, as it relies on Christ’s work and call, and not on me, that it can never be lost either on this side of eternity or on the other. It is truly a permanent and assured belonging in the courts of God that cannot be lost, stolen, or even given away.
The Heidelberg Catechism words this idea this way: “For that reason, he assures me of eternal life by His Holy Spirit.” The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Rome:
“The Spirit himself confirms in our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then also heirs — even heirs of God and sharing an inheritance with Christ, if it is true that we suffer together in order that we may be glorified together.”
The promise to believers is two-fold. First, if we are Christians we find our assurance coming from the Holy Spirit. This does not come from our works, our church membership, our genealogy, etc… it comes directly from God himself. Second, if we have this assurance, then we are not simply children of God, but as children we are heirs of the Kingdom. Yes, we will suffer together (think the way the church should engage alongside of one another) and we will face challenges, but there is a promise that we will be glorified together, in this case, at the second-coming of our Lord. And, as God is Truth and as God is unchanging, this testimony from God the Holy Spirit is one that cannot be lost or forfeited. To suggest otherwise would make God a liar and that is a dangerous accusation.
And so, we can be assured. That need for belonging can be found not merely in temporal things, but eternal things. And for me, perhaps much of my struggle with finding that sense of belonging in family, friends, and work was brought about by my desire to flee from God — something I did for many years, that is until God, like a master-fisherman, permanently set his hook in my lip, regenerated my sinful soul, and brought me to my knees in faith and repentance. And so, though my connection to earthly belonging has grown weaker over the years, the assurance that I have of my belonging in eternal things has grown deeper and more profound. And, this is the promise that God gives to every born-again believer in Jesus Christ.