You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
became settling in…
You began to breathe again…
You learned to sing.
But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger…
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found…
– Jan Richardson
Jan Richardson starts off her poem by mentioning hunger. It’s also a perfect way to begin framing this month’s theme of belonging. We’ve all felt it. Just saying the word “belonging” conjures it up: The hunger to be included; the longing to be let in. No one likes standing outside the circle. No one likes leaning against the locked door listening to everyone laughing inside. From the time we are little, belonging is the thing we seek. It’s the hoped-for Holy Grail at the end of our journeys.
Or is it just the beginning of our journey?
You have to love the way Richardson surprises us with that twist. One minute she’s wrapping us in comforting words about settling into belonging and the next she’s shaking us awake and telling us to get up and go. And maybe what she’s really waking us up to is the fact that there are two types of belonging, only one of which is a blessing.
To use her language, if you find yourself being invited to linger rather than leave, warning bells should go off. Be wary of those who welcome you with a club jacket and soft couch. They may have let you in, but soon they will enlist you to help with the work of keeping others out.
Instead, as all the true sages and sacred traditions tell us, the true blessing of belonging isn’t that you get to come inside the circle; it’s that you get to participate in expanding it.
Which means maybe our question this month is different than one we might expect. Instead of “Where can I find belonging?” maybe it’s “How can I become belonging for others?”
May that be the question and the type of belonging this month that – to use Richardson’s words – “will not leave any of us alone.”