Faustina loves her peeps. In her world, each of these hens is her “sister from another mister.” Once she’s sprung from her overnight pen, she makes a beeline for the chicken coop and waits for her flock to join her in free ranging the land. When the chickens are stuck inside (as when a hawk has been poaching), she hovers nearby and sulks. She’s even tried to unlatch the door with her teeth. For whatever reason, Faustina not only seeks her sister lambs for company, but she has also claimed the hens as part of her tribe.
I used to have a tribe. More than one, actually. There was my big Italian family in New Jersey. My aunts used to call me their little polpette…that’s Italian for little meatball, if you really want to know (yes, I was a little chubby). And while I look back now and think: gee, that wasn’t very nice, I never once felt like there wasn’t a place for me at the table. After all, what’s a Sunday afternoon spaghetti dinner without little meatballs? They’re often the best part of the meal and I felt adored and accepted. I had tribes throughout my school years and as a new mother. In midlife, women in my parish were my co-workers in Christ. A most glorious sense of comaradarie came from my posse of horse peeps. Those friendships that are forged on the backs of horses and in wiping the dust off each other’s breeches after a fall have been some of the most gratifying. However, since moving to Tennessee two and a half years ago (just before Covid lockdowns), I’ve pretty much been without a tribe. I’m not gonna lie. It has often been lonely. But now that the world is finally springing back to life, I have to stop and think about where I go from here.
As I pray over where to direct my time and energy in this new place and phase of life, it occurs to me that finding one’s tribe encompasses much more than having friends or hobbies in common; book clubs, horse barns, sports arenas—they’re all great places to forge friendship and have fun. But in biblical times, being part of a tribe meant that there was a deep ancestral, cultural, geographical and familial bond that far exceeded the simple notion of being “kin” — it meant there was something in the bones and the blood, in the collective psyche, in the beliefs of the soul—that created a profound sense of identity and mission greater than any one person alone.
The twelve tribes of Israel—the sons of Jacob—each had a God-given role in setting the stage for salvation history. On his deathbed, that great patriarch, Jacob, imparted a prophetic blessing (for better or for worse) upon each of his twelve sons (Genesis, Chapter 49:8-12). In this Chapter, the tribe of Judah (from which King David, Solomon, and Jesus are descended) is described as a lion that will dominate all other tribes as well as all nations, destroy every enemy, and give rise to the Messiah:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”
Of course, this Messianic prophecy was fulfilled in the coming of Christ the King: the “Lion of Judah” and the Lamb of God.
All this is to say that “finding my tribe” (apart from my beloved family members) doesn’t seem so much like child’s play anymore. Where and with whom will I align my love, my loyalty, my labor, and the rest of my life? I used to count on strength in numbers for a sense of security and belonging. These days, however, I find strength, comfort, and purpose in a tribe of four.
Father. Son. Holy Sprit. And me.
According to God's timing, I’ll branch out from there, knowing that certain people He will put in my path here in Tennessee may appear at first glance to be entirely different from me and what I've known, and yet—like Faustina and her hens—I will come to recognize and claim them as my own.
I think the secret is to keep an open mind and heart, and to trust in the mission that’s bigger than me. After all, as the saying goes: we’re all just walking each other home. The Book of Revelation confirms this, for God has revealed that when all is said and done, in His tender mercy, through the merits of the Lion of Judah and the sacrifice of the Lamb, there will only be one tribe, a “Great Multitude from Every Nation.” In these troubled and divisive times in the world, and on my loneliest days—I take comfort in that promise—don’t you?
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
~Revelation 7: 9-17