I love the idea of a tribe. A squad. A group. A posse. A pack. Whatever you want to call it. I call mine a tribe because the word means something to me; I feel it in my bones.
My tribe has certainly changed throughout the years. It has shrunk, it has grown, it has bent the rules. Some people have willingly left and created their own separate tribes. Some people have died and will never be replaced. Some people appeared out of nowhere and became lifelong members. Regardless of time and who makes it up, my tribe is strong.
I have always been surrounded by good people. Of course good people do not account for every relationship I have ever formed, but I have had a beautiful, strong tribe for as long as I can remember. A tribe who sang every word to the 90’s boy-band Hanson or dressed up as the Spice Girls in my living room when we were children. My tribe who helped me pack up my life every few years when the military sent my family on another adventure. The tribe who buried friends together and mourned in tearful silence when words were not necessary. My tribe has changed completely over the years, but looking back, I have never had to do life completely alone.
When I was seventeen, I was involved in a very serious car accident. While I and the others were being tended to in the Emergency Room, my tribe of high school friends waited in the lobby. I was terrified of the consequences, in pain from the accident, and exhausted from the events of the day, but my tribe was there for me. They loved me through the repercussions, the aches and resulting scars, and most importantly, they gave peace and rest to my weary soul.
When I was eighteen, my lung collapsed. My tribe made up of college friends and strong adult women rallied around my hospital bed for my week’s stay and kept me laughing though the pain. They prayed over me fiercely so that the panic could never fully reach my mind. They kept me entertained so that boredom of bed rest and being chained to an oxygen mask would not dishearten me.
When my friend, my mentor, got sick, I fell apart. My tribe became my rope-holders, the people who listened when I needed to share what was on my heart.
“Before you are allowed to start climbing, they teach you how to be a “rope holder” for another climber, providing a lifeline, if needed. When you see a climber going up or down a mountain face, you usually see the rope tied around his/her waist, but what you often don’t see is the person at the end of that rope. That person who holds your rope while you are climbing, literally has your life in their hands if something should happen while you are climbing. Sometimes as Christians we can feel so weak, exhausted, and immobilized with personal pain that we can have difficulty praying, communicating with people, or holding our own heads up. But God has a plan for His broken people—and that plan is for the body of Christ to be their rope holders. They speak up with confident prayers when we cannot move our lips. They allow us to cry, vent our naked feelings, or they mourn with us in solitude. Rope holders stay on the mountain even when they are exhausted in order to provide a safety net.” -Carol Kent, When I Lay My Isaaac Down
My tribe held me up when she passed away. They listened to my stories and did not push in the moments that I did not want to share. While it is heartbreaking to spend the final days with your loved one who is dying, the moments you collect are precious treasures that you will never let go of. My tribe lost a member, but I still hold onto those memories like they are more valuable than gold.
When I got married, my tribe made up of people from different states, ages, and walks of life made the biggest day of my life more special than I could ever have imagined. They wore dresses they would never wear again, they eased my nerves and kept me on time. They laughed and cried with me. They helped me get dressed in a beautiful gown and watched through the cracks in the door as I saw my groom for the first time while I wore my princess dress. They danced with me, they hugged me and kissed my cheek as I embarked on a new adventure. One tribe member traveled for hours and hours to surprise me for a few minutes on that important day.
A tribe is love.
When my children were born, each time my tribe assembled and encouraged me every second. They photographed the moments I missed, they took care of me and my newborn babies, they cooked and cleaned and held my hand when hormones made me crazy (crazier). They went out of their way to make me feel special.
My tribe will not always have the same members, the same friends, but the meaning remains the same. A tribe is a group of friends who will be there for you, build you up, hold your rope when you are too exhausted to keep climbing, and keep you sane when life’s roller-coaster has thrown you for a loop. A tribe will lay down on the ground with you when you are too emotionally spent to pick yourself up. A tribe will, as Pastor Matt preached, “mess up a roof for you” just as the paralytic man’s friends, his tribe, did for him in the gospel of Mark.
A tribe is time spent not counting the hours, but the memories, the laughter, the tears, and the indescribable moments that were made better simply by being together. Realize that you were not created to do life alone. Realize that you need people in your corner. Realize that you bring something valuable to the table.
A tribe is a group that you choose to do life with. A tribe is life lived and measured by love.