In three weeks time we have attended two weddings. This has not happened to us since we were engaged and seemed to be attending weddings every other weekend.
The first was the Friday evening following Memorial Day. It was a lovely event. Two people, both coming from difficult past relationships who have experienced deep healing and restoration came together, united in marriage.
And we were honored to be invited.
In fact, I was so surprised I had to read the invitation three times. I knew the wedding would be small, I knew it was a second marriage, I knew that family and friends who had known them far longer would be invited. So when our invitation came I was surprised and more than a little pleased.
They invited US.
This is the point where I explain to readers that we have moved so much that we haven’t been invited to many weddings. You have to know people a while to get invited to important events like weddings and funerals. You need to be a part of their community, a part of their lives. This couple considered us a part of that group, the group that belonged.
The second was an invitation to the wedding of a couple who attend our Parish – our first Orthodox wedding. Again, it was an amazing feeling of belonging. “Have you been to an Orthodox wedding before?” We were asked. And no – we hadn’t. “You’ll love it! They’re beautiful!”
Two invitations. Two weddings. Two events that signified we are not strangers, we are not outsiders, we belong.
What spells belonging? What things happen physically and emotionally that tell us we belong?
This is a huge question for the one who moves, the one who’s heart is set on pilgrimage. The stories of far away are fun and exciting — you wouldn’t give them up for the world, but when you sit at home on a Friday night, knowing there is no one you are able to invite over, no one to be spontaneous with, the stories feel flat and unimportant. Stories, after all, need an audience to live.
But it can take a lot to belong. As a third culture kid and then a third culture kid living as an expatriate, belonging seemed easier. Expat communities are filled with comings and goings – if you don’t connect quickly the year will be half over and you realize many are packing up for their next assignment. Because of this, connections happened and deepened quickly. Despite not having legal documentation of citizenship, belonging was not an issue.
Physically I believe there can be a visceral sense of belonging. For me that occurs whenever I’m placed among palm trees and warmth, more so if the palm trees and warmth include a mosque nearby. I know others who feel at home the minute they touch down at Logan Airport in Boston, still more that love the seasons – crisp fall, cold winter, colorful spring, and hot summer.
Emotionally? Though I know it includes attitude, willingness to accept where I am, adaptability and more, I’ve found it’s not just about my own willingness to adjust and put myself out of my comfort zone. (One could argue that as a newcomer, I’ve already put myself out of my comfort zone, and that in spades.) It’s also about others being willing to accept the outsider, to extend belonging and community to the newcomer.
What do you think? What spells belonging to you? Is it weddings? Friendships? Or just plain time?
And in closing, thank you Lisa & David, Tabitha & Elijah – for extending an invitation to belong.