Living the Life

A while back I (Teresa) wrote a series of blog posts on the three “arenas” of love that we are taught in the scriptures to pursue.  Loving God is the foundation and overarching principle. Think of it as a love sandwich and God is the bread. The sandwich itself is made up of: love and respect for self (self-care and personal responsibility), love expressed within our intimate relationships, and love of the “we” - our community.  My premise in writing was twofold: 1. We need to strive for balance in all three arenas and 2. Each arena serves its own purpose in our lives and when we get those confused we get into trouble relationally.



I think one of the major reasons we struggle to stay connected as a tribe is because we are out of balance.  Time and again I observe how often we ask our intimate connections or community to “do for us” that which we are supposed to be taking responsibility for ourselves.  When that happens we often end up frustrated with the “other”. We get our feelings hurt. We ask why “they” didn’t love us enough “to do_____”. Are we as willing to turn the question around and ask:  “Why don’t I respect myself enough to do____? What is my part in this intimate relationship? How does my presence support the thriving of my community?”


There are a million ways this kind of dysfunction messes with tribe.  Maybe we have the opposite problem. Maybe we become needless and wantless, thinking that our job is to give and give and give ourselves away.  That’s equally problematical. It is unsustainable. creates imbalance among the tribe, where ideally everyone is doing a little which adds up to a quite lovely and balanced way of living amongst one another.  


We have proven by our acceptance of the premise without pushback that we value community but I am not sure we have thoroughly digested what it means to participate in making a community “successful.” I am pretty confident that it doesn’t mean actually succeeding at goals and objectives.  I trust that it is more about showing up. Trying. Being kind. Simple and straightforward. So simple and straightforward that we might miss the beauty of it if we are distracted by “success” in all its traditional presentations.


What is your definition of success from a tribal perspective?  Is it too focused on what you get out of it? Is it not focused enough on what you need from it?  Do you believe it requires that certain objectives are reached? Do we all have to get along? What about the role of conflict within community?  Can you handle the inevitable complaints and criticisms that come when a group gathers? Where does forgiveness AND accountability fit into the picture?  These are good questions that we must address for ourselves personally, between our intimate connections and within a tribe.

We all agree on the need for community

In our community we speak ALL the time about the value of having a tribe.  We write about it in our blog posts. We encourage families who come in to meet with us privately to find a community for support and a place where they can find purpose.  NO ONE has EVER given us any lip about this. Not one single human being has ever said, “You guys are nuts!”



For context, please understand the various things people have given us feedback on over the years - which, by the way, we appreciate.  How else will we learn and grow and improve our serve, but here are a few things that people have felt the need to call, write or meet with us to help us improve ourselves and community over the years.  People complain about: the fact that we respect the 12-step process and mutual aid societies (we are not Christian enough), the fact that we are Christians (we are not recovered enough), the fact that neither Scott nor I are in recovery for a Substance Use Disorder, the location of our building, the fact that we have a building, the fact that we didn’t get a building soon enough, the fact that we didn’t choose a different building, the fact that we study the enneagram (we are devil worshipers and we do not understand salvation), the color of the carpet/the walls, people are too friendly, people are not friendly enough, the kind of chairs we use, snow cancellations, FAILURE to cancel, the time we meet, the number of meetings we hold (too few/too many), the particular scripture verse we chose in a message, the LACK of a scripture verse in the message, a particular book we quote, our Family Education Program (families don’t have a problem, why should you ask us to come to a meeting...just tell me what to do over the phone), our music (too loud, too quiet, not a person’s preferential style), our coffee (too strong, to weak), our food (too much, too little, not considerate of dietary restrictions) Teresa/Scott are too direct/indirect/naive/uninformed and more, how many times we send out emails and the content of said emails (too often/not often enough/bad graphics/mistakes in grammar and spelling/forgetting key details) name a few.  Notice that many of these are legitimate complaints. There are many others, but this I think gives you a flavor for our feedback.



That is significant.  


This raises a HUGE question:  why do so many of us continue to struggle with loneliness?  Why do we have trouble figuring out how to be “part of”? I do not know.  I have a few theories. I want to explore what it would look like to be a “success” within a community of people for a few days and see if we can figure some of this out. Remember - we all seem to agree that a community SHOULD be a good thing for us day to day.  Because I have funerals on my mind, I am wondering about this: at the end of the day, at the end of our life, wouldn’t it be a lovely thing to have a community gather that sincerely is going to miss our presence? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a final gathering of loving folks who knew and loved us for who we authentically and imperfectly were?  Wouldn’t that be the greatest success of all? Only people with tribes get tributes like that.

Building a Tribe

Throughout the scriptures, God is all about the tribe.  Unfortunately, we forget that and try to over personalize some of what the bible teaches.  But take another look. His message is around tribe. Rarely does God call out an individual, he works primarily through the tribe.  Yes we know the names of the individuals that God has called to serve - but the vast majority of God’s people throughout history have worked in small, steady, faithful ways to serve him and their communities.  



The beauty of a tribe is that we don’t all have to be believing and behaving well on the same day.  My son and I co-pastor a community called Northstar Community. We have our off days. Heck, in 2017 we had an off year filled with family suffering and heartache (and a new and amazing grandson - do you want to see my pictures?).  


But what I have observed is on the days he or I were at our lowest, someone in our community was faithfully stepping up to fill the gap that our inability to be fully present created.  I like to think that we do the same in return. A family will get all out of sorts with one another - over a serious issue, not just petty stuff. We have had times when either Scott, me, or another community member was invited into the family to help work through the issue.  Many times this calms down the chaos and allows for healing.


This isn’t some grand thing.  It’s just tribe doing its thing.


Build the tribe.  I do not know how we survive without it.