It’s been popular for a few years for moms to refer to their family as their “tribe.” Just look around all those boutiques that are geared toward women in their child-bearing years. I guarantee you’ll see some reference to “raising my tribe” on a t-shirt or coffee mug. It’s cute. It lends itself well to graphics with arrows and baby foxes and all of the other weird things that we women are drawn to these days. But, I think at its heart the idea of your “tribe” speaks to the deep sense of responsibility and fulfillment that women feel as mothers. Once you were alone. Now you have helped create a whole little club of people who adore you.
Motherhood is fun. Having a little tribe is comforting. Except when it isn’t. Except when you’re overwhelmed and exhausted and desperate and lonely and depressed. We don’t talk about it much, but as much as motherhood is glorious it can also be crushing in an indescribable way. It is an utter emptying of yourself for small, demanding people. Later it can seem like an endless string of worries over different children for different reasons. It can be difficult when your tribe is made up of tantrum-throwers and whiners and teens with bad attitudes. And that’s when nothing crazy is happening. Then you have illnesses and spiritual crises and friendship drama and all sorts of other things that are unpredictable and can throw your world into chaos. In short, motherhood is hard. It is amazing and beautiful in ways that can’t be explained. It is a life filled with laughter, but can also be a source of deep grief. Sometimes when we gather our kids under our proverbial wings we feel like we’re the most solitary, most forlorn fortress that ever was–just a determined woman, standing guard with gritted teeth over the little people that God gave her.
As mothers we must remember that our tribe is so much bigger than we think.
If we are followers of Christ, then our little family unit is only part of the picture. The Bible tells us that our actual tribe goes far beyond the walls of our own home. In His goodness, God provides us with spiritual brothers and sisters, mothers and grandmothers, dads and fun uncles and daughters and sons. He builds a support system for us, one devoted Christian church member at a time, and He blesses us with relationships that help to ease the burden and share the blessing of raising children in this world. All we have to do is look up and see that help is all around us.
In Ephesians, Paul writes about how God can take people of all backgrounds and turn them into a unified body that glorifies Him: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:19-22)
As Christian mothers, we have to expand our vision of who our tribe really is. We aren’t in this on our own. With fellow believers in our local church, we are being built together into a dwelling place for God–not one made of brick and mortar, but a house–no, a tribe–where God dwells. Where our children get true family members who are listed nowhere in their family tree. Where we can mother with confidence, knowing that we are surrounded by a safety net of prayer and godly wisdom, recognizing that God dwells here, among His people. There is no more secure place to be trying this experiment of raising kids. Instead of steeling ourselves against the world, desperately trying to hold everything in our tiny tribe together, we can loosen our grip on our children and link arms with God’s people, knowing that He designed the local church to be our home and our help. Our true tribe.