Thursday, July 31, 2014

One of Us

I'm a member of a group called "The Young Clergy Women Project", an international network of Clergy women under the age of 40.  We span the globe, theologies, denominations, sexual orientations, and political identities.  We're a diverse crowd, not always of the same mind, but our tagline "You're Not Alone" rings true; we're a tribe of women united by our common service to the kingdom of God.  I didn't know how important this group would be to me until i found it.  Now?  I can't imagine being able to do ministry without them, my "internet" friends.

They aren't my only tribe, of course.  At the end of August I will head to Atlanta to hang out with a whole slew of completely different friends at Dragon*Con.  They are NOT ministers, but we're still connected by what we love - comics, tv shows, movies, stories, nostalgia.  Geek culture has become chic, but it is still a joy to stand in a giant room of thousands of other people you don't know, and realize you all love the same thing.  I'm excited to be with my "people" again.  

This is, theoretically, what we speak of when we speak of the "Cloud of Witnesses" that the Universal Church is.  The tribe of Jesus, the men and women and children of thousands years past and thousands of years to come, who whisper to us of faith and perserverance and humility and love.  There is much I owe to it, they are the root of who i understand myself to be.

Not all my tribes are so large as these groups; like most of us, some of the most important groups I am a part of are the smallest ones I have - my extended family, my immediate family, my friends, and smallest of all, the family I have with Gareth.  He may never be a minister, he may never be a geek, but what I share with him is singular in the extreme.  He is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, a whole seperate person that I grew, who slept underneath my heart.  A distinct little boy who still sleeps under my heart, but now from the comfort of his loft bed in his room down the hallway. 

Lately, my tribe member has been having a difficult time letting me go in the mornings when I drop him off at daycare.  For the first time in his tiny life, he resists my leaving, clings to me and starts to cry.  I don't recognize this reaction in him, as he has always been my happy extrovert.  He has been in daycare since he was 5 months old, and I thought we had both grown used to the daily leaving and reuniting.  But lately, he is anxious.  He can't articulate why and I don't know how to learn his truth without forcing an answer or leading him into more anxiety.  So I stay with him a bit longer, reassure him that we will be together again soon, but I still have to walk away.  

There is something achingly true about that leave-taking; that no matter how many tribes in which we identify  ourselves, no matter how many relationships we have that are integral to our lives, we cannot always be with those precious people.  Much of our lives are spent alone, or at least inwardly isolated.  There is much that others can do for me, but there is more that I must decide alone, must do alone, must consider in the quiet of my own spirit.  But the reason we need those tribes?  Because their presences, their influences, their voices linger with us in the solitary spaces of our lives.  I hear the voice of my clergywomen tribe whisper "you are not alone" when i am dealing with a particularly painful church issue.  I remember the joy of my nerd tribe when I feel awkward for making one too many sci-fi references in a sermon.  I rest in the love of my family tribe when I see the broken relationships that seem to make up the world.  I imagine the face of my boy when I feel grief to heavy to move.

Perhaps we are not as alone as we think.  It is possible that we carry our tribes within us wherever we go, no matter the size of the crowd we stand within.  Invisible lines tether us together, tangle us up, support us as we move away from them, as we move toward them.

Who are your tribes?

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