Thursday, April 25, 2013

start a tribe: the intersection of bravery and tenderness

Earlier this week I wrote a bit about found communities and chosen families over at Relyn's blog.
And I wrote about it from my experience of finding community and friendship, sometimes in unlikely places, and at unlikely times.
But I realize that not everyones experience of friendship and community is like mine.

I realized it again while having pie Saturday night with 6 lovely, funny, kind ladies.
We ate pie and french fries and spoke truth, and listened gently and laughed until we cried.
Our waitress kept asking if we were part of an official group. Were we in town for a conference? Were we part of a club? Did we work together?
"No, we are just all friends" we said.
To which she replied "I wish I had this many friends. I just have my mom and my kids."

I wanted to take her home right then.
Or move to her town and be her friend.
Or at least drive the 3 hours to her town once a month for pie.
It broke my heart.

But it is not the first time I have heard this sort of statement recently.
Not the first time I have wanted to scoop someone up and adopt them into my tribe.

When I was in my early twenties I met a gal named Amy at church.
We had few coffees, shared some fries (yes, I am seeing a trend here..,) and attended a conference together.
In the beginning it was awkward. I thought we had nothing in common. I was pregnant, she was starting her doctorate. He life was fairly corporate and mine was highly domestic. Her hair was always perfectly coiffed, mine was always a mess. We should have never become friends.

But circumstances pushed us together enough that there was the slightest spark of friendship. Our lives looked very different, but on the inside we were very similar. We had a lot of the same questions about faith, the same interest in books, coffee and learning. But still we were just "church friends."

Until she sent me the card.
And in the card it said this: Will you be my real friend? Check Yes or No.
I checked yes. And the deal was sealed. We were now real friends.

I have longed admired Amy's bravery and vulnerability in sending me that card.
For taking a chance, for opening her hand to show me her heart, for taking the risk of letting me break it, on the slim chance that instead I would help her care for it.
She didn't have to ask me. She could have just let things be as they were- casual, gliding on the surface.  In fact everything in our culture tells us that tenderness is the enemy, and that vulnerability is for suckers, so who could blame her if she had?

The growth of my tribe, over the years between college and now, is full of moments like this. Moments where I, or the other person, has held out a hand and opened it up, revealing a tender part of ourselves to the other for care.

For a year and a half in college I lived in a private room. I was on the same hallway as several good friends, but I spent many, many evenings alone in that room, waiting on someone to call. To say "why are you alone? Come down to our room!" I kept waiting to be wanted.

It wasn't until Sweet Man and I moved to a new town, joined a new church, and I became friends with Amy that I realized how I had played a part in my loneliness.
It was only then that I  realized that most people are waiting to be wanted. 

These days I try not to sit around waiting to be wanted. 
Instead, I try to be brave and tender, like Amy was all those years ago.

 I try to see that need in others and meet it.
I try to erase their aloneness as much as I can.

 But in order to do this authentically, in order to do this in a way that doesn't feel like I am trying to earn holiness points, I have to also allow them to erase parts of my aloneness as well.
I have to open my hand and share some tender bits of my heart with the understanding that no one owes me kindness in return.
Otherwise it is all works and no love. 
Otherwise, "Concern" turns to judgement and "truth" turns to condemnation. And I am just an annoying, goody-two-shoes, gonging mess, wrecking havoc in the name of "loving my neighbor."

For me, if I am going to love honestly, if I am going to actively choose to be in relationship with others, I have to remain vulnerable, authentic, transparent. I must be willing to be chosen as well.
I must live from a place of  humility and gratefulness for each and every person that chooses to check my YES box, every person who chooses me back.*

So, if you do not have a tribe yet, and you would like one, perhaps you could think and pray on how to  start one. How to be the one to stop waiting, to gather all your bravery and tenderness, and step out to say "will you be my friend?"

*(I feel like I need to say somewhere, somehow, that  I am not in any way addressing abusive relationships, or advocating that people stay in them because "it is what Jesus would do." What I am talking about here has to do with safe people and safe relationships.  Initially awkward friendships, with potentially awkward people? Yes. Abusive friendships with abusive people? NO. )

** All these pictures were taken at the St Scholastica Monastery


  1. I have been a long time quiet fan and lover of all that you do but I must speak up after reading this post, tears streaming down my face. Amen to every single word and thank you - I needed to read this and remember that sometimes the fear of not being invited or full accepted holds me back from being one of the group...two feet jumping off this morning into deeper community and friendship through Him who gives me strength and full love! You're an incredible gift and blessing - thank you!! xo

    1. You are so welcome! And thank you for reading my blog and coming to visit me : ) Best wishes as you JUMP in!!xoxo

  2. love your post...wishing I also had friends like that. I have a hard situation though. My husband is the police chief in our town and we have been burned by so many people wanting to be our friends so it is a little hard to find real true friends... We just keep trying to see who the Lord brings into our lives!

    1. Wow-that must be a tough situation! I am glad to hear that you are still trying and staying open- that is HUGE. Prayers that you are able to find true, honest friendship rooted in trust and grace!

  3. Shannan sent me over here. No wonder why, this is beautiful and what I needed to hear. I'm often the asker, the caller, the one extending friendship. And it gets a bit tired and lonely even. But I keep at it, because I've been asked, and had friendship extended to me, and even when I said no (which was rarely) and especially when I said yes, it felt so good to be the one pursued, to see someone's bravery and tenderness directed at me. So I'll keep directing it at others. But I'm gonna keep my authenticity in check, too. Maybe that SAHM up the block wants to be my friend... Guess its time to ask! :)

    1. Yes, I understand that. I have been on that side often and it can get tiring and even feel unfair. I like what you said about keeping your authenticity in check- that is the key. Also, bravo for thinking of that SAHM down the street! I bet she would love to know you better. : )

  4. Thank you for talking honestly about this. I cannot get over your friend's courage. How brave of her to ask!

    1. It really was one of the greatest gifts ever.

  5. I want a tribe!! And it all feels like work right now. Trying to initiate friendships. And I'm tired. And what if, just what if, you open up the tender part of yourself, and she says "no"? Because then, how do you keep from feeling like a fool the next time you see her?

    1. You should never feel like a fool for being honest and tender. But perhaps with this person you start small. Also, look around - is there someone who wants to open up to you but who is afraid you will say no? Sometime our tribes are waiting for us, we just have to turn around and see them instead of being focused on the tribe we think we want. I have no idea if this is relevant to your situation, but it has been relevant to mine before. I am sending you hugs and wishes for tenderness and bravery! Let me know how it goes.

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  7. Beautiful post, so glad I found your blog. This has really been on my mind - think I am scared to step out - fear of rejection makes it easier to do nothing, but if I want things to change then I need to change!

    1. You can do it! It's not always easy, but regardless you will learn a lot about yourself if you try!

  8. This is just lovely :) So glad I found your blog- speaks to where I am right now. I stay guarded, but I really need to open up more.

    1. Thank you. I pray that you are able to open up and that your tender heart is welcomed with love and friendship!

  9. About 7 years ago I started a twice monthly craft night at my house. In the beginning, it was a way to see my friends. (After the birth of my son, I didn't get out much after dark.) We have a wonderful, supportive group and it is a blessing to me and to each of the other women, I think. We meet every Tuesday night now at my house and it is full of laughter and tears and so much honesty. One woman has a terminally ill child. One women is facing an early MS diagnosis on top of coping with her autistic son. But there is joy too. We work on service projects together and we never miss an opportunity to have a glass of wine in celebration of the good in life. All of this grew out of the decision that I didn't want to be at home and lonely. God works in such wonderful ways that it is hard for me to wrap my head around it sometimes.

    1. This is wonderful and amazing! Yay you! This is a great example of how reaching out and owning your need and desire for relationships can lead to a beautitful and supportive tribe!

  10. Lovely Jerusalem... it seems we are all a little lonely. I wish I had girlfriends... I never have. I have always wondered what that would be like.

  11. What a lovely post! You must be very wise! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  12. Oh my gosh, that was so well put, I actually cried reading it. I am longing to find great friends in my area. Im sure there is plenty of people feeling the same way. I think I will start reaching out more myself. Love your blog, such a great read everytime I come back to read.

  13. "...most people are waiting to be wanted." Truer than true. Thanks for sharing.


ok, really. tell me the truth... do these comments make me look fat?

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