Three years ago I walked into a conference center in north Chicago for the first of nine retreats. As 70 other Christian leaders mingled the room preparing for a new journey into spiritual formation, I knew I had found my “tribe.” You know…your people. People who think like you think, value what you value, want what you want. Maybe even look like you look.
I thought about it this weekend coming down for breakfast in a cheap hotel in New Mexico. Crammed into too-close tables, eating the bottom of the food chain, I looked around at unkempt, overweight, unsmiling travelers. Thank God we get to go to a nice hotel tomorrow, I found myself thinking. Reminiscent of, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” of Pharisee fame (Luke 18:11).
I was horrified once I noticed my own thought stream. What does God think about these dear children of His? I wondered. What are the stories that brought them to this place? In a matter of hours I would be mingling with a more affluent crowd attending another conference—well turned out, well-toned, probably happy to be there. Are those my people? I certainly feel more comfortable around them…which brings its own pang of guilt.
I really am a superficial ass. Jesus would be so disappointed.
But of course Jesus is not—because He’s too busy really seeing people. Even seeing me with eyes of understanding and compassion. I need to get me some of that!
I practiced on the ride over, striking up conversation with the taxi driver…hearing a bit of his story. El Paso native. Moved to Albuquerque fifteen years ago with a new wife and two of his six kids. Hopes, fears, disappointments. A human life. Different circumstances, different ethnicity—but I saw some of my own hopes, fears, and disappointments mirrored in his. None of us are really that different at the core.
And that, I thought, is the secret of living and loving and leading like Jesus: really seeing people and noticing the vast similarities instead of the few differences. When Jesus brought his earthly ministry to a close with a final, encompassing prayer for oneness (John 17), I think He knew that oneness actually is the kingdom reality…we just don’t realize it. And we certainly don’t act like it very often. But we really are one people needing pretty much the same things, driving through space and time on the same big bus.
How would this world be different if nations saw their inherent oneness more than their cultural contradictions? More to the point, how would you do life differently if your essential connectedness to your co-workers and neighbors—not to mention those on the other side of the tracks—was your first conscious thought?
Sitting here in the Atlanta airport I watch the hordes rush past: all ages, shapes, and hues. Slack-jawed, glazed over…just wanted to get home. Just wanting to hold and be held. In this moment my callous heart cracks and I care. I feel.
This is my tribe. These are my people. Humanity.
One of the greatest spiritual practice is also one of the simplest, once we move past our own self-preoccupation. Click here to see how to “encounter” those in your path each day.
And here’s a really cool song that paints a beautiful picture of how, no matter who we are or what we do, we’re really all still singing the same song!
We’re all in this together.