Last month, I had the meaningful opportunity to travel to California and spend time with an important community in my life. Pasadena Presbyterian Church invited me to spend a week with them and preach the sermon in both of their Sunday worship services.
This was a beautiful return for me. Years ago, I was one of their pastors. I have great love for this community and gratitude for all I learned alongside them while I lived in Pasadena.
There was a moment during my visit that felt particularly meaningful. During that moment, time seemed to expand in an intriguing way.
As I had done so many times before, I was standing at the back of the sanctuary when worship was about to begin. In this congregation, the pastors and members of the choir process into the sanctuary as people sing the first hymn. While we were waiting for that moment to begin and walk in together, I had this odd but wonderful feeling suddenly wash over me.
In an instant, I recognized that I had gained years of experiences beyond my time in Pasadena, including a host of different memories, new people, and an entirely different town. But. . . at the very same time, I felt as though these new experiences had all happened in the span of about two weeks. This is because it felt so normal to be back in that sanctuary. I felt as if very little time had passed since I was last there. I remembered the last service I led before moving to Ann Arbor, and it seemed like only yesterday.
It was an odd but wonderful feeling, and I loved the both/and experience of it. I gave thanks for the people and memories I have experienced beyond Pasadena, and I also gave thanks to feel right at home in that spot.
Later in the day, I called that experience the “Time Warp of Belonging.”
There are times when we move beyond a particular experience, place, or community, but the rich belonging we experienced during that time can come rushing in toward the present moment.
And in those moments, we can have an experience of newness. We connect with a part of ourselves that experienced belonging in community, and we bring it forward to the chapter we are living right now.
And we can do this whether or not we make an actual return.
In chapters and years, we belong to one another. And we can experience it again.
As we enter a new year, let’s recall the people and places who shaped us, and let’s allow belonging to mark beginning.