The need To Belong
by Nellie Shani
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Every child born into this world, needs the assurance that he belongs to a family who wants and loves him or her. It is believed that during the first year of our lives the need to belong is very dominant. God has intended that parents play the role of providing this need to belong and to feel loved. If for whatever reason our parents failed to minister to the need to belong, as we become adults, certain social and behavioral problems may start to manifest in our lives. This deprivation may cause some “cracks” to start showing in the very foundation of our existence.
A child whose basic need to belong has not been properly met will more often than not develop anxiety and sometimes even an inability to trust – even God.
Unfortunately many children who have been brought up in orphanages have a problem with trust. Those who have lived in an orphanage past the age of five years old are particularly prone to this problem. It is not hard to see why it is preferred for children to be adopted when they are as young as possible, so that early on in their lives they start to experience the kind of love and acceptance that eventually fosters a sense of belonging. Many foster parents of older children say that it is an uphill battle getting their kids to trust that they took them into their homes because they truly loved them. The kids are unnecessarily suspicious of acts of kindness and in some cases are unconsciously waiting for the period of stay to be over and they are taken back to the orphanage. That is particularly true of kids who have been in several homes.
I still remember counseling Felicity (not her real name), a Christian young girl who had been adopted by a missionary family in a West African country where we lived at the time. Although she had the sweetest and most patient parents that I had ever met, Felicity struggled with a hot temper and was extremely moody. Whereas most kids who came to see me as the school counselor had been recommended to me either by their parents or by a teacher, Felicity came to see me of her own accord. “ I have been trying to find out who my biological mum is.” This statement surprised me at the time because her foster parents were everything you would imagine that a child would want in a parent. When I asked her why she was trying to connect with her biological mother, she told me that she wanted to know the whole reason why her mother gave her away. “ I talked to mum about this and she told me that she would help me locate her, if it was important to me.” “Is it important to you?” I asked her. Felicity looked away angrily and told me that if her mother had tried hard enough she would have been able to keep her.
Apparently Felicity’s mother had had another child, also out of wedlock, before she became pregnant with Felicity. She had kept the older child but gave up the baby for adoption. “How come she did not give up my older sister for adoption?” Of course I had no answer for that and I did not want to speculate. “What reason has your mum given you?” “She keeps saying that my biological mother loved me and knew that she could not be able to give me the life that I deserved and so it was for my good that she gave me up. She says that the adoption agency had told her that the biological mother of the child had emphasized that she wanted her baby adopted by a good Christian family.” “How far has your mother gone with locating your biological mum?” I asked Felicity, wondering why it was so important to her to connect with someone that she had never seen or had a relationship with. “Mum is in touch with the agency from which I was adopted and they are looking at the records. They said they will get back to us.” “That is wonderful, I hope that you will get to know you biological mum.” Although I said that to Felicity, I knew that finally getting to know her mum and sister could be either wonderful or disappointing.
Relationships are cultivated and the foundations are built upon, stone upon stone. What I did not fully realize at the time was that Felicity’s questions of “Who am I and what am I worth?” had not yet been answered for her. She still did not feel a sense of belonging. I am sure that this would have devastated her wonderful foster parents if they knew.
Felicity burst into my office two weeks later. She was smiling from ear to ear and she was carrying a letter in her hands. “ I got a letter from my biological mum and she has sent me pictures of her and my sister!!” She gave me the letter to read and my original fears were allayed. I saw a picture of a beautiful African American woman with another equally beautiful young lady sitting next to her. In the letter Felicity’s biological mother called her “honey” and “darling” and told her how happy she was to be in touch with her “little girl” again. Tears came to my eyes as she told Felicity how she would never have given her away if she had any other option. She said she was glad that she had parents that were wonderful. I took the risk and asked Felicity, “So would you like to live with your biological mother?” “No! I love my mum. I want to stay with her.” I do not know if Felicity eventually met her mum but this story emphasizes all the more, how strong the need to belong is!
Whenever the Bible gives an account of a person, we are told either their father’s name, their mother’s name or where they came from. When we meet Jeremiah the prophet in the Book of Jeremiah we are told that he is the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. However what gives Jeremiah as sense of being loved, wanted and planned for is when God tells him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart: I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” – Jeremiah 1:5. Talk about having a sense of belonging!
I listened to a pastor at a church recently who shared with the congregation how his mother told him that she never really wanted him. He was an accident, and she was very disappointed when she got pregnant with him, although she was a married woman and had two other kids. She had thought that she was through giving birth when he came along!
He became a rebellious child and had many behavioral problems, which eventually landed him in jail at the age of sixteen. His testimony is that when he eventually understood how much God loved him and how much he was not an accident in God’s plans, his life turned around. God had planned all along that he be born and pastor a church of over five thousand people!
At the end of the day when all is said and done, there is nobody on this earth who will ever grow up with a one hundred percent feeling of belonging, and of being loved and accepted. That is because we do not live in a perfect world, and there is no perfect parent that has been born yet. Because parents have not been brought up in perfect families, they themselves cannot be perfect parents. So everybody is brought up with a certain degree of deprivation – some more than others.
The only person that can cause a human being to feel one hundred per cent loved and accepted is Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross of Calvary out of the Father’s love for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” – John 15:13. The only perfect love that a parent can give a child is to let God love their child through them. As God fills us with His love, only then can we love our child in a way that gives them a sense of belonging. For those people who were brought up in an environment where they did not feel like they belonged, God is able to transform their lives through a personal knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16.
Nellie Shani lives in California with her husband and three children. She has been writing articles for the last fifteen years. Her first book, "Stand Your Ground," is now available on amazon.com and on her author's website: http://www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/StandYourGround.html
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