15But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.

16But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

Ironically, if I am going to discover within myself a deep abiding sense of belonging, I am going to have to do what Jesus did. I am going to have to “withdraw to deserted places and pray.”

No human community has the capacity to impart to anyone a secure sense of belonging. Human communities always let people down. Any human gathering, no matter how intimate, will involve some degree of separation, disconnect and pain. All human relationships share in the inevitable brokenness that manifests in all human behaviour and all social constructs. On the surface of every human relationship there will be some experience of loneliness.

It is only by walking away for a time from human relationships and going “to deserted places” that my heart begins to open to that deep abiding place of belonging that is my true identity.

To walk away “and pray” is to shift the locus of my identity. In prayer I affirm that my fundamental identity does not reside in any external manifestation. I do not need you to affirm my identity, to support the little ego project of my life, or to make me feel I have a legitimate place on this earth.

I belong because I am a child of God, created in the image and likeness of the divine power of love and light. I do not belong to you. I do not belong to any organizational structure, or external manifestation of corporate identity.

It is one thing to be committed to Jesus and to finding my identity in Christ. It is something quite different if I seek my sense of identity in any organization or attempt to establish the illusion of security on the horizontal plane of life.

I impose an intolerable burden on any human community if I demand that it impart to me a reliable sense of belonging. Belonging precedes anything that happens in the external circumstances of my life. Belonging comes first. Behaviour that emanates from a secure sense of deep inner belonging will always be a source of healing in the human community.

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