Back in 2020, AIM Co-Founder, Don Brewster explained that there are 3 universal needs that every person strives to fulfill. These were taken from a passage in Matthew: 

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from Heaven said,  “This is my Son, whom I love: With Him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17 (emphasis added)
  • “This is my Son” – belonging. We all want to be a part of something. 
  • “Whom I love” – love. We all want to be loved. 
  • “With Him I am well pleased.” – purpose. We all want to have a purpose beyond ourselves and fulfill that purpose as Jesus did. 

At AIM, it is our main goal to help meet those needs for survivors of trafficking and others we serve. 

In this series, we will walk through how these three things are truly universal needs for each and every one of us if we want to step into an abundant and joyful life. We’ll also see just how each of us can help others realize they belong, they are loved, and they have a purpose. 

God doesn’t promise us an easy life or one that is free of pain, suffering, or hardship. But, through Him, we can have a different kind of abundance and joy. Let’s see what this is all about.

Why Belonging? 

Hop in a time machine and come with me to the first day of high school. For some of us, we might need to dig a little further back in our memories… But, once you get there, try to remember something – what did you want, more than anything? Not a car, a relationship, or straight As, although those may have been on the list. 

For me, and probably for many of us, the first day of high school was in a new environment. I went from a mega public school to a small, more intimate private school. And I wanted so badly to fit in. Throughout school, our worries could probably be brought back to the idea of finding belonging. Even if you said you wanted a car more than anything, why was that? Most likely, it was rooted in this need for belonging. 

Belong: be a member or part of (a particular group, organization, or class). 

Oxford Dictionary Definition

The Mayo Clinic published a blog on belonging which said:

“The sense of belonging is fundamental to the way humankind organizes itself. If it was unimportant, we would live solitary lives only coming together for procreation then quickly kicking the children out of our lives as soon as they could walk. We would have no families, communities or organized government.”

It is not unreasonable to say we were made with a need to find belonging. Let’s go back to school and recall Psychology 101. Remember this chart?

Psychologist, Abraham Maslow created this hierarchy to explain the psychological motivation for each decision we make. Starting with meeting our physical needs, moving to psychological needs, and finally fulfillment. As you can see, right after our physical needs are met, Maslow shows that we make decisions in order to find love and belonging. We will hit on love soon, but, for now, let’s focus on belonging. 

In the following sections, we will dive into what belonging IS and what it ISN’T, how to share the feeling of belonging with others, and how we do this every day at AIM! 

Today, let’s consider that belonging isn’t only a basic human need according to psychologists and health professionals, but it’s how God created us. From the beginning, God has worked through family units – first with Adam and Eve, then Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… All the way to Jesus and the disciples and their community. We were created to be in communion with God and in a community with others. This is the heart of belonging that we will dive deeper into!

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1 (emphasis added)

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What Belonging Isn’t 

Before we get into what belonging really means and where to find it, let’s talk about what it’s not.

Have you ever been really excited to be a part of something exclusive? Then, when you do get “in,” it’s not all it’s cracked up to be?

For 6 months I paid a ridiculous amount of money to “belong” to a gym that had everything – indoor and outdoor pools, endless rows of treadmills, saunas, warm showers, cycling classes, yoga classes, HIIT classes, tennis courts, childcare… the list goes on.

When I was considering what gym to go to, this was the obvious, fun option, even with the high price tag. I was excited to get started! After a while, I got into a routine of going to classes and utilizing their facilities. But I noticed something: I still wanted to “fit in”. I wanted to wear Lululemon and Nike. I felt like I needed to be better, faster, and stronger just to be there.

I “belonged” to this gym, but I didn’t really belong.

Pretty soon I canceled my membership and signed up for the $10/month gym where the motto is: “no judgment zone”. I fit in here a bit better. 

Don’t get me wrong – large, fancy gyms can be amazing for certain people or at certain stages of life. The point here is –  belonging is different than paying your dues and attending. It’s even different from “fitting in” and, oh goodness, it’s different from being popular. 

The gym analogy may seem silly, but it reveals something about us – we crave a deep sense of belonging, but we often look for it in the wrong places. We want to find connection and belonging, but sometimes it feels out of reach. Take heart. There is a greater place to belong that you were created for. Stay tuned as we look into what belonging really is. 

For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Romans 14:8

What Belonging is

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

– 1 John 3:1-2

Did you have a chance to think about the places you have tried to belong or find that sense of belonging? In the previous section, we talked about how searching for belonging might fail us. It might make us feel more alone or out of place, like going to a fancy gym. 

On the contrary, what about times when you truly felt you belonged somewhere? Maybe a job has played into your gifts and skills perfectly. Maybe a support group has gone through a similar situation as you and you feel like they really understand you and your struggles. Maybe a partner, spouse, or friend has accepted your quirks and supports you in your growth. These things and more can bring a sense of deep peace, comfort, and, that’s right, belonging. 

The previously quoted verse sheds some light on why it’s so hard to find belonging – “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” If you can think of a time when you felt you truly belonged, I’m willing to guess it’s because you were truly known. That employer knew your strengths, that group knew your story, or that partner knew your heart.

Think of that in relation to God. He knew you before you were a thought (Psalm 139). How incredible is it that someone, like the God of the universe, would know every part of you and, with that, love every bit of you! Now that’s what it means to belong, to feel that peace and calm, knowing that you are known and loved. 

That verse in 1 John also says, “see what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” 

We will talk more about love in another post. For now, we see that because of His love for us, God calls us his children, his family – the closest, most natural form of belonging there is! Now, some of us don’t have a great picture of belonging to an earthly family. But in Christ, belonging is unobstructed. It is pure, it is real, and it is for you. 

One of the main qualities of Jesus – one that got him in the most trouble – was that he made space for those who didn’t think they could or would belong. He made space for the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and the rebels. This doesn’t mean he had an “all things are permissible” attitude. But it means he first focused on creating a space for belonging so people could know His Father more. 

When and where have you felt this deep sense of belonging?

Sharing Belonging with others 

If you believe in Jesus, you belong to the family of God and the community of believers around the world! And, while people and institutions (like the “little c church”) can fail, we can find peace and stability in belonging to God. There is no fee to pay or test to take, we can just accept our spot in His family through Jesus! 

So how do we share this sense of belonging with others? 

Since it is a basic human need, everyone – Christian or not – is looking for a place to belong. Unfortunately, our sinful nature doesn’t always lend to building communities of belonging. We won’t always rock the hospitality/community/belonging thing, but we can always point others to Jesus and the spot they have in God’s family. 

Belonging and love are so intertwined. And while we will dive into love in another post, we can’t talk about sharing this sense of belonging without mentioning how loving others is an integral part of showing them that they belong. Remember the verse in 1 John and Psalm 139 – God knows us and loves us and that’s where/when we know we belong. 

So the two [not-so-simple] steps to show some they belong and that there is space for them in God’s family – 

  1. Know them: listen, learn, and be interested. 
  2. Love them: like Jesus, without expectation or exception.

Story of Belonging – The Princess Ceremony 

“That is true, deep healing – for them to realize who they are in Christ and that they are HIS child and they are a princes. That’s what gets reinforced right from the beginning when they come in with our princess ceremony.”

Bridget Brewster, Co-Founder of AIM

We’ve talked a lot about belonging – why we crave it, what it isn’t and what it is, and how to share it with others. But, what does this look like in real life? We want to share an example with you… 

AIM works to rescue women and girls out of the darkness of trafficking and exploitation. When a girl is brought to our Restoration Home (ARH), it is known that they have experienced, pain, abuse, and/or neglect – physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

The first thing we do when they come to ARH is to ensure their physical needs are met. We get them clean clothes, food, water, shelter, etc. – think of the first two levels of Maslow’s pyramid. Shortly after, our team at ARH throws a party, a ceremony, to welcome them into the family unit at ARH. But, more importantly, they are being welcomed into the family of God. While we don’t force girls in our care to “convert” or accept Jesus, we let them know there is space for them in God’s family, as well as our AIM family. And, it’s true, belonging to God is much more rewarding, significant, and life-changing than being a part of our family (even though it’s pretty great too). 

This ceremony signifies the beginning of a long healing journey. Many girls will become a part of the family down the road. It takes a while to accept the spot, to accept that they do belong, after years of abuse and lies. But over and over again, as these girls grow into incredible women of God, they can point back to this princess ceremony as the moment they began to feel wanted, worthy, and like they belonged. 

“When she came to AIM, we did a princess ceremony for her. That made her feel very special, she said she had never experienced something like that before. She had never known the love of God. She had never been called a princess before.”

– Mak Mom, House Mom at ARH

This is the first of a three-part series on the 3 universal needs of humans. Check out the posts below for more!

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