How important is it to belong? What must we do to belong? Who decides if we belong or not?
These were not questions I seriously asked myself, but through a series of incidents some years ago, I found a satisfying answer. I also found, along the way, that you often need to find your own answers to have the point really sink in.
Even so, I thought it might be useful to share my experience for others who might be seriously asking the question, “Where do I belong?”
As you might expect, the “where do I belong?” issue for me was grounded in the issue of abortion. In the 1980’s, when I first became aware of the scope of legalized abortion-on-demand, I found myself reading, thinking and talking about the issue a great deal. I was surprised to find that people I knew were not shocked by the statistics that I was reading about. One and a half million abortions in the U.S. a year. Four thousand a day.
And so, I started writing letters to the editor, and I wrote an article for the Sons of the Academy Bulletin. I thought, surely, New Church people will be shocked and want to do and say something about it. I called on the men, in my Son’s of the Academy article, to be the protectors of society, to give sermons, to influence our law makers, to question doctors who were ignoring the Hippocratic Oath all physicians swore to uphold when they graduated from medical school. The editor advised me that I might regret writing the article. I might not ever live it down. I then wrote an article for the Theta Alpha Journal, only to read later that they had placed a “moratorium” on the subject of abortion.
I was reaching out to my Church to find some agreement that this new law, Roe v. Wade, did not benefit women, that it was against the Order of Creation: a Heaven from the human race.
Over the years, I have seen men and women begin to learn about the violence of abortion and to watch their awareness begin to break their hearts. As they learn more about it, I can listen and say, “I know, I know …” and I can offer things they can do, pregnancy care centers they can support, things they can read, action they can take.
As for me, when I didn’t find agreement in my Church, with the exception of a few outspoken individuals, I looked to Christian Pro-Life groups to belong to, where I thought I’d find agreement. I joined the board of a Christian Counseling Center. I enjoyed the focus of their meetings, and I volunteered to head their fund raising campaign.
Once I stepped forward, however, things changed. I was asked to come in for an interview before I assumed a leadership position. To my surprise, the focus of the interview was my Church! Did I believe in the Trinity? Was my Church a cult?
Uh, oh! Again I was outside the wall of agreement. I told my inquisitors that I didn’t need to be a leader in their organization. I was sure they could find someone else to head their fund raising team.
Now I was alone. Who could I talk to? I spoke to my pastor, Ragnar Boyesen, whom I knew shared my concern for the unborn. I told him about my rejection from New Church publications and my rejection from the Christian Counseling Center. I told him, “I don’t know where I belong!”
Ragnar’s response has lived with me forever. He said, “Trish, when you are on your spiritual journey, you are always alone.”
Ah ha! I had my answer. I simply accepted the fact that I might not always “belong”. And I felt a surprising strength in standing alone … on my spiritual journey.
Oddly enough, from then on I felt I belonged everywhere. I could go to a Jewish Bat Mitzvah and belong, or witness a Baptist altar call and belong. I read a portion of a baptismal service at my grandson’s Catholic baptism, and I marched with people of all faiths at the annual March for Life, and I belonged.
It’s as simple as that. I belong.