Belonging Beyond Boundaries

Belonging Beyond Boundaries

When a mother and her teen daughter magically trade bodies in Freaky Friday, the spring musical opening this weekend at Peninsula High School, audiences will experience a hilarious and very literal lesson in empathy.

Who do you find exasperating? Or maybe just hard to figure out? Would you be willing to swap places in order to understand them? As a mom, I think one mortifying day would be worth the reward of a more genuine relationship with an enigmatic teen. Maybe a harder question … how to gain perspective from someone we see as really different? I’d love to tell you about Chapel Hill people doing just that.

Last weekend, my van was full of donations to the women at the state prison in town because many of you lovingly prepared clothes for them to wear when they are released. In turn, we heard the testimony of two beautiful women … one released last year, and one eagerly anticipating her “re-entry” to society. My lunch table was full of WCCW staff who invited us to come with tour groups so we could see life from inside the fencing. And we are working to welcome staff back in our building for their upcoming training day. These are all ways of trading places. What I heard from all our guests was a longing for community. 

After months of hammering alongside the new homeowners of the Habitat for Humanity house, the real celebration at the completed home dedication last weekend wasn’t the brick and mortar, it was the welcome into our community! The beautiful quilts for Kris and Hailey and little Max were made by our Comfort Quilters to show that we love them. (Read their “thank you” message below!)  If they just needed warmth, Amazon would have sufficed.

Genuine belonging is a basic need in a world where trust is scarce. Our student ministry candidate spoke in his interviews of kids who are lonely. I talked to a Cornerstones ministry leader the other day about how isolated older adults feel. A new Deacon texted me to talk about “shepherding.” And as I greeted new members last Sunday, we clasped hands with the hope that we will actually get to know each other. Last week, I also learned of a broken friendship, a teacher suspected of abuse, and my own friends who desperately need a safe place as they parent kids who are wrestling with their gender identity. And those kids … what I would do to trade places with them.

The first-century believers did not have magic. But they traded places in a sense, speaking fluently in languages they did not know to deliver a message that people could hear in their mother tongue. It was the Holy Spirit filling them (Acts 2:4-8). Pastor Mark will preach tomorrow on what the Spirit-filled church looks like, and we get to vote for our new pastor!!! I believe we are all in this place and this time for a purpose: to communicate the gospel in unique ways that people in relationship with us will be able to comprehend and receive. It is an exciting season to be a community identified by the love of Jesus.

Jesus took our place of estrangement on the cross, not only to empathize, but so that we might take his place of sonship. He set a model of trading a place of privilege for weakness. Belonging in the family of God is the ultimate inclusion. It’s a community of mutual trust…safe for all of us to be vulnerable and to confess and to pray for one another (James 5:13-16). “Nobody has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is completed in us” (1 John 4:12). We can be friends to students and elders, to prisoners and parents, and to teachers and neighbors. You already are.

Be filled and carry on! And I hope to see you at the play!

Cara Taylor
Director of Outreach

“And thank you to Chapel Hill and all of the volunteers and donors. We can see beyond a doubt that you are a community with the best of all intentions. We have seen some of your messages of goodwill that are forever written in Sharpie within the walls of our home. We have seen some of your smiling faces and know that those smiles have been there since this house was just a foundation of cement. It’s because of you all that we have come to realize that the real foundation of this home is made from human compassion. We know that you have set out to make a difference in people’s lives. Please know from the bottom of our hearts that you have.”  (Kris and Hailey, Habitat for Humanity homeowners)