Posts Tagged ‘Belonging’

Receiving Others as Gifts: People Belong to God


In a previous post in this series on Receiving Others as Gifts I talked about not taking others for granted, that they are not objects for us to use. I want to go a step further with that to emphasize that people belong to God.


People belonging to God has (at least) four important implications:


1. We Need to Honor & Respect Others

The other people we encounter in life, as God’s beloved creations, deserve the respect that we give to God.

In college I once wrote a paper talking about the importance of both loving God and loving neighbor. I wrote about these actions as if they were two separate realities.

My professor pointed out that these are really two sides of the same coin.

It simply doesn’t work to say we honor God when we dishonor God’s created people.


2. We’re Not the Boss of Other People

Overtly acknowledging that others belong to God underscores that they do not belong to us.

We serve alongside one another in mutuality and we give and receive meaningful companionship but others are free to give or withhold these as honors their own commitment to God.

Others’ participation in service and companionship is not for us to coerce but for them to discern.

It is important for us to honor their boundaries about what they are or are not willing to do.


3. We Can Learn About God from Others

Another implication of others belonging to God is that many times we can learn from them about God.

As each of us are designed by our creator to be in communion with him, sometimes others may be tuning in to God in ways that we aren’t currently. As such, we can glean insights and inspiration from their encounters with our God.

Obviously, as a church professional married to a pastor I believe that there are formal roles in which this can happen.

But a person does not have to be super religious or a trained professional to have encounters with God from which the rest of us can learn.

It is easy to settle into our own views about and experiences with God. But God is at work in the lives of others too.

Our lives can be enriched by remaining open to God’s movement in and through others.


4. Different by Design

In my post about “giftedness” I talked about the idea that others are different from us. Whether we find these differences enjoyable or annoying, it is important to recognize that many of the differences among us are by God’s design.

God created each of us as unique individuals. Our giftedness comes from God.

Discrimination against or dismissal of others’ uniqueness is a failure to recognize God at work in each person. But by honoring their differences, we honor their belonging to God.

 By honoring others as God’s beloved creations, giving them the freedom to choose how they serve and with whom to associate, learning from them about our amazing God, and respecting their uniqueness we show a deep respect for them. In these ways we show with our actions that we embrace the idea that they do not belong to us, but to God.

Read all the posts in the Receiving Others as Gifts series:

My Itinerant Home

all-of-life-is-coming-homeIs home a place? Neither the family I grew up in nor the family I have married into have stayed in one place which makes the idea of “home” a little complicated.

Where I Came From

I grew up and went to school from Kindergarten through 12th grade in Pickerington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. In many ways, I still feel Pickerington is my home. But none of my family lives there anymore.

My parents divorced when I was 14 years old and both stayed in Pickerington until after both of us kids graduated from high school. So, for a while there I had two homes in my hometown–the house where I grew up and lived most of the time with my mom and brother, and the apartment where my dad lived and my brother and I would visit on Dad’s weekends. When it came time for Christmas, my brother and I had two homes to help decorate!

But shortly after I got married, my dad bought himself a house in a neighboring suburb of Columbus. And two years after my wedding, my mother sold our family home to move in with her new husband–about an hour away from Columbus.

My parents are still alive and well and I go and visit them in their new homes when I can.  As time has gone on, I do feel “at home” when I visit my parents in their respective new homes–I know my way around their kitchens, I can find the right light switches in the middle of the night. But the sense of “home” I have about being there with them is disconnected from the places where we actually dwelled together during my younger years.

I haven’t been back to my actual hometown of Pickerington for quite some time. And even when I do go there, I feel a bit like a fish out of water, having no place to lay my head in the town where I grew up.

On the Move

After I finished high school, I went for one year to Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. Then I married my husband and moved to Indiana where he was serving as pastor of his first church. Then began even more moving in my life as a pastor’s wife.

In 18 years of marriage we have lived in 7 different dwellings in 4 different states. We have had 3 major cross-country moves–from Indiana to Florida, from Florida to Ohio, and from Ohio to Texas.

In each place we have lived we have tried to fully enter into the life of each community. It’s important to us to live near the church where my husband serves. We shop local and we frequent the restaurants nearest our home. Everybody knows our names and we like it that way.

We have done our very best to make each place our home. And each community continues to hold a special place in our hearts.

But we don’t have family in any of those places and the actual dwellings we lived in are filled with different people now.

And given the dynamics of pastoral ministry, returning to previous churches has a very different feel as my husband does not want to make things awkward for current pastors. We are clear that we are guests, friends even. But those churches are no longer “ours” as they once were.

We are simply visitors in places we used to live.

Home Now

Home for us now is a small town in Texas. And once again, in the town where my husband pastors, we are doing our usual routine of making this place our home. And truly the steakhouse in our town–JW’s Steakhouse in Carmine, Texas–is the best steakhouse in the whole state.

It is so strange to call this state my home. When I first met my husband and learned he was from Texas, it didn’t even occur to me that I might live there, ever. Even when we got married, I thought we would probably stay in the midwest our whole lives together. Unless, of course, we got sent to the mission field somewhere. Somehow going to a foreign country seemed more likely then moving to the Lone Star State.

But here we are.

And my husband’s family is all over this great state as well. So, he kinda is back home. And as I’ve mentioned before, his family has really made me feel at home among them. I even know my way around his parents’ kitchen and can find the light switches in their house in the middle of the night.

I’m not home at all, and yet I really am. I think, in many ways, the itinerancy of my home has deepened my reliance on the relationships rather than the places of home. In this sense, I can make my home anywhere despite never being able to actually go home in the way that more settled people can.

My Heart All Over

And yet, I still feel the attachments to and longings for my former homes. And sometimes when I think about all the friends I have left behind from moving around so much, my heart hurts. I feel like little pieces of me are all over, but I can never be there enough to have what I once did in those places and with those people.

And I try not to think too much about it because I think I really could wall myself off from the possibilities in my current setting. I mean, it gets more difficult to invest in each new place so deeply. Sometimes it seems easier just to stop forging the new connections.

I don’t want to do that though, I want to keep investing in each place. I want to keep being incarnational with the people where I am. Even if I can’t ever truly go home, I can be fully present wherever it is I find myself. That’s the best I can do and I pray for the love and grace to continue to make my heart a place of welcome for those I meet in each new place.


This post is my contribution to a monthly Synchroblog that I am joining for the first time. The December topic is Coming Home. The following is a list of other bloggers writing on this topic:

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