The Way of Belonging: Reimagining Who We Are and How We Relate – Sarah E. Westfall

The Way of Belonging: Reimagining Who We Are and How We Relate by Sarah E. Westfall
Published by IVP on June 11, 2024
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
Buy on Amazon

The welcome of God changes everything.

No one is a stranger to loneliness. Despite how social we are via text, chat, and notifications, we are far from being truly connected. We all want someone else to really see us and choose us for who we are. We want a place to finally fit in. But what if finding the right people or the right place is not the answer?

From her community-building background, Sarah E. Westfall takes our longing to belong as an invitation to embrace and extend the deep love of God. After years contemplating how she fit in and trying to earn acceptance, she realized "belonging is not something to attain, but someone to become." Through narrative, research, Scripture, and spiritual practice, she teaches how belonging is a way of being–a posture of welcome in the spirit of the Father who extends his arms to those returning and those who don't yet know they've resisted his love.

Whether you understand the perspective of the outsider in need of acceptance well or you're eager to include, the barriers to belonging can come down as Sarah gently guides us toward deep connection―a connection where our humanity draws us closer to people and envelops us in the heart of God. Embark with Sarah on this challenge that will awaken your empathy and affirm you with the truth of these words: "You are welcome."

Includes a two-session group guide.

This reflective, personal book explores the theme of belonging, with each chapter addressing different topics about identity and community. Sarah E. Westfall writes in a vulnerable way about her struggles to feel like she belongs, and she shares stories from her past and present to illustrate her personal journey and share important life lessons. She also includes Bible verses throughout, exploring how we can understand loneliness and belonging in the context of the Christian faith.

The first part of the book focuses on who we are, and she explores themes about belonging and disconnection through the creation and fall narrative from Genesis, and through Jesus’s parable about the prodigal son. She writes about how important it is to receive the belonging that God offers us, grounding ourselves in our identity in Him so that we can be at peace even in the midst of loneliness, and so that we can extend His welcome to others.

In the second part of the book, she explores different themes about how we relate to others, and she encourages her readers to focus on the goodness of their longing for community, rather than just focusing on what they lack. She also writes about the importance of naming your desires to better understand them, writes about moving beyond an “us versus them” mentality, and explores themes about connecting over personal stories, accepting uncertainty and risk, deepening relationships and managing different circles of closeness, embracing questions, pursuing a life of creativity, and practicing celebration. Each chapter concludes with a reflection exercise and suggestions of small ways to put these ideas into practice. There is also a guide at the end for reading groups.

The Way of Belonging: Reimagining Who We Are and How We Relate is beautifully written, heartfelt, and honest. This is clearly a very personal book to the author, and her vulnerability can encourage other people who struggle with loneliness and insecurities in relationship. I ended up not connecting with this as much as I had hoped, however, and I can’t fully put my finger on why. Maybe it’s just because I’ve already thought so much about this topic myself, or perhaps it’s because I wanted more practical ideas, or more detail in some of the stories. I’m not sure, but even though I didn’t get as much out of this book as I had expected, I enjoyed it and found it thought-provoking, and others readers may find that it speaks more deeply to them.