These are the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; children were born to them after the flood. The descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.”

Genesis 10:1-2

 

Photograph of the Quilt of Belonging
The Quilt of Belonging

 

Where do you belong?

As you read this question, what first came to mind for you? Did you think of your family? Or did you envision you friends? Maybe your community? Where do you fit? In what relationships do you find love, meaning, and security?

In Ancient Israel, the social context for Genesis 10, people belonged to tribes and to a nation. But, most of all, they belonged to a family, a family that was known in terms of its ancestors. If someone from this culture were to be asked, “Who are you?” that person would answer first in terms of family relationships.

In our day, family can still be the defining relationship of our lives. But, more than ever, we are known according to our work. If I were to meet you, after getting your name I’d be inclined to ask, “What do you do?” You would know not to answer by saying, “Well, I sleep, breathe, eat, and do other stuff.” Rather, you’d tell me what you do for work, whether in some paid position or in your volunteer work (such as parenting). Our work defines us today perhaps more than ever before.

I’m not suggesting that this is wrong, though I believe too much identification with work can be risky. If, for example, I know myself as the son of Dave and Martha, the husband of Linda, and the father of Nathan and Kara, then my sense of self is mostly secure. If, however, I know myself primarily as the Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, then what will happen if I lose my job? Moreover, if I define myself primarily in terms of my work, then I will tend to neglect important aspects of life besides work, such as family, friendship, and worship.

If I think of myself first and foremost in relationship to God, then the other dimensions of my life can be centered and rightly ordered. God has placed me in a family, yet my family won’t determine my essence or chief purpose in life. God tells me who I am and why I’m here. From this perspective, work is extremely important since God created me to invest a good deal of my life in work. Yet work will not become an idol that takes God’s rightful place in my life. Work, family, and the other dimensions of a full life will be woven together by God, who tells me that I am his child, his beloved, his worker, his disciple, his worshiper, and a member of the divine family, joined with millions of brothers and sisters throughout the world. Since I belong to God, I belong also to God’s family.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:

Where do you belong? What relationships give meaning and direction to your life?

How does your work define you? What difference does your answer to this question make in your sense of self? In your priorities?

To what extent do you see yourself primarily in terms of your relationship with God . . . really? (No Sunday School easy answers here!)

PRAYER:

Gracious God, thank you for all the different ways we belong in life. Thank you for the gifts of family, work, friendship, and community. Thank you for our churches and our teams, our cities and our nations.

Thank you, most of all, for calling us into relationship with you. Thank you for the fact that we belong to you by grace, and that nothing in all creation can separate us from your love in Christ. May we learn, Lord, to belong to you first and through you to belong to others. Amen.
 

Photo of the Quilt of Belonging at the Inaugural exhibition at the wikipedia:Canadian Museum of Civilization. Photographer: Nick Wolochatiuk. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.