Beauty n. state of being pleasing to the senses • Liturgy n. work of the people

Beauty in Belonging

by Amy Oliver

I have been known to refer to Crosscreek as my own island of misfit toys. If that reference is lost on you, let me first apologize for a lack of magic and wonder in your childhood. Secondly, I’d like to invite you over to my house for a viewing party. We’ll throw a Christmas in July party and call it a day.

The island of misfit toys is a subplot from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a stop-motion Christmas special that originally aired on NBC in 1964. (If you’re into trivia, it’s also the world’s longest-running and highest-rated television special of all time.) In the special, Rudolph and his friends accidentally land on the island and encounter these “misfit toys”—toys that are quirky, different, and otherwise unwanted. Imagine a Charlie-in-a-box upset that his name is all wrong, a train with square wheels, and a water pistol that shoots jelly.

Look, I never said it wasn’t weird.

My point is all these misfits find a home with one another. Together, they form a little misfit community. They learn a song that they all sing in unison. It’s weird and glorious and wonderful.

That feels a lot like belonging to me.

It feels a lot like Crosscreek to me.

There’s something beautiful about feeling like you belong to a group of people. When you’re deeply known and deeply loved. When the whole is made better because you are a part.

Of course, neither the universal church nor Crosscreek has the market on belonging. People can find belonging in almost any place they want—their Crossfit gym, work, their own families, within their bookclub, their sports club fan page on facebook. The list goes on and on and on.

But what elevates our belonging within the Church is that there’s no prerequisite to membership. You need not cheer for a certain team, like exact literature, enjoy precise music, or work at a specific place. You belong because you are loved by God. And that is enough.

It’s a picture of God’s grace and glory and beauty when we, through the Holy Spirit, move towards a neighborly love that, as George Hendry put it, “overcomes division and reconciles contraries, bringing into communion those who have nothing in common except the fact that Jesus gave himself for them.”

I believe Crosscreek does this remarkably well. I also believe we can do it better.

I know that we are more than just the sum of our parts—more than a collection of individuals whose lives intersect for one hour on Sunday mornings. Something beautiful, and wonderful, and dare I say holy, happens when we gather together. That when we, a group of people who have little in common, come together to proclaim that we are loved by God and that everyone else is too—God meets us there.

And when our proclamations motivate our actions, when our words reach our hearts and move our feet, when we commit to living in a loving community with all—God’s glory is revealed. God’s beauty is on display. 

And when our proclamations motivate our actions, when our words reach our hearts and move our feet, when we commit to living in a loving community with all—God’s glory is revealed. God’s beauty is on display.

I believe that God is doing something in the midst of all that loving community. In our differences, we are demonstrating to the world a bigger and better picture of God than any of us can do alone. Together, we represent Him more fully. Richard Mouw puts it this way: “There is no one human individual or group who can fully bear or manifest all that is involved in the image of God, so that there is a sense in which that image is collectively possessed. The image of God is, as it were, parceled out among the peoples of the Earth. By looking at different individuals and groups we get glimpses of different aspects of the full image of God.”

And so today, my friends, I thank God for you. I thank God for the ways I see Him active in your lives, for the ways God has used you all to bring me closer to Himself, and for the portrait of God that we get to display to the world together.

And for each misfit who comes our way, through God’s grace may we have the strength to say “Christ died for you, too—and that is enough.”