I used to think that “Kindred Spirits” were rare kinds of friends, few and far between.
The other night I was thinking back over our 18 years in ministry. There was a time in my life when I didn’t have any real friends. I had co-workers in ministry, but I didn’t share my inner most thoughts with anyone at all. No one took the time to get close to me, and I opened up to no one. I blamed it on a lack of time. I blamed it on my need for strength and my fear of weakness. I blamed it on a need for confidentiality between pastors and congregations. I blamed it on the fact that I saw no one around me who was exactly like me… as if that were really the only kind of person that I would enjoy being friends with. I was very busy, but when I slowed down I was deeply lonely. I didn’t like slowing down.
I remember the night that we “graduated” from School of Missions and we were commissioned to become missionaries. My parents were standing somewhere in the crowd behind us, supportive, conflicted, and tearful. I was so excited to finally be in the group of people that I had longed to be a part of ever since I was 10 years old. I was finally “in” the tribe that I had admired for so long. Then I turned around and saw the sad-proud looks on my parents’s faces and I realized in one sinking moment that they were not coming with me. They were not joining the club. I was leaving one tribe to be a member of another tribe. Yes my family would always love me like only family can, but the people who would UNDERSTAND me were other missionaries. My family was left standing on the outside, separated by more than the physical distance between counties.
More than 8 years later I have reached a new, fresh level of life in ministry. Here overseas I have made more life-long friendships than I ever had in full time ministry in the States. Here I have nothing but time on my side. I have shed that old, tight friendless skin and have embraced a softer, more flexible and friendly sort of skin. The friendships I have here are deep and satisfying, giving and being filled up at the same time.
I can honestly say that the change probably occurred when I was pummeled into tenderness during our time at Language school. But that time of trial and transformation is yet another point of connection that I have in common with my tribe mates and fellow missionaries. (So I don’t begrudge one moment of the beating.) I have never felt such deep camaraderie in ministry as I feel with My Tribe. My cup overfloweth with friends.