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What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul,
in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. . . .

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time, these words gave me comfort and the courage to be. I also learned that not only is it important to belong to God, it is also important to belong to people—a family, a community. Having my family and friends praying and caring for me made me realize that my life mattered. I was loved. I belonged.

Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone.

I have worked with people who are homeless. I had no training for this job: I was told to simply hand out food. Over time, I realized that while food is important to people, what was just as important was my being with them. I discovered that people who live on the street do not necessarily have friends. Often homeless people are very lonely. They do not feel loved; they have no sense of belonging.

I remember someone in particular—a man I’ll call Pete. Pete was in his 60s. He was obese. He made sexist and racist comments. It was hard for me to like him. Pete told me he had been an only child to parents who had owned a successful restaurant. Eventually he was married and had a child. They belonged to a church. In time, his parents died, and when his wife demanded a divorce, Pete’s life fell apart. After a bitter divorce, estrangement from his son, and feeling abandoned by his church, Pete was totally alone. He felt unlovable. He did not belong to anyone.

When I was able to get beyond how Pete looked and his manner of talking, I learned to listen, and I heard his pain of not belonging. Soon a pattern developed. Every Monday morning, Pete would show up for our visit. He would be upset when I went on vacation. Toward the end of his life, Pete was hospitalized. He listed me as his next of kin. Through God’s grace, Pete had felt a sense of belonging.

When I was pregnant with our oldest son, I read a book written by a psychiatrist who believed that in every child there is an emotional “love tank” that needs to be filled. He believed that a child needed to feel loved, that he belonged. I took those words seriously and worked on filling our sons’ “love tanks.” And if they would object and say that I had already filled their love tank the day before, I would tell them that their tanks had emptied during the night as they slept.

It's not just kids who need to be loved and to belong. We all have those needs. We were made by a loving God for loving relationships. Whenever we fill the need for love and belonging in others, or are blessed to have our own needs filled, we are extending the embrace of our loving God.

Knowing that I belong to Jesus and am loved by my family and friends gives me comfort and enables me to live my life to the fullest.

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