We stood side by side staring at the large map on the wall of the underground tunnel. Long spaghetti shaped lines intertwined, crisscrossing each other across a grid labeled with names and places completely unknown to us. If we could just find one person in the crowd surrounding us who understood English, we felt we would be okay.
My friend, Jill Hamilton, and I were in Vienna, Austria, where Monday through Friday she was undergoing a specialized medical treatment offered only in certain European countries. After finishing treatment on this particular Friday she had suggested we take the train and cross the border into the Czech Republic where we would spend our weekend exploring that country’s rich culture.
If we could just find one person in the crowd surrounding us who understood English, we felt we would be okay.
The problem was we couldn’t determine which subway line to take and where exactly we should get off to end up at the train terminal itself. The other problem was neither of us spoke German. We also knew from the owner of the hotel where we were staying that if we missed the last train into the Czech Republic we would not be able to leave until the next day and would forfeit the hotel charge which had been prepaid.
Desperate for assistance, we spoke to every passerby whose eyes would glance our way. Usually we were met with a shrug, upturned hands (as in “I haven’t a clue what you’re saying”), or simply a pitying smile. FINALLY, a young woman who looked to be college age pointed to the map and explained exactly where we needed to go to reach our destination.
Thanking her profusely, we followed her instructions and breathlessly took our seats on the train leaving Vienna exactly five minutes before departure! The ticket to our successful adventure was not only the printed piece of paper in our hands but just as importantly, it was finding someone who understood us!
The need to be understood is at the very core of our being. Babies and toddlers who cannot make their needs known or understood will sometimes reach a level of frustration that results in tantrum throwing, uncontrolled crying or even hitting. While we often FEEL like doing the same as adults, most of us are able to restrain ourselves from those outward sorts of displays. What we do often experience, however, is a deep inner sadness at not being understood.
The need to be understood is at the very core of our being.
In some way, not being understood negates our feelings and our experiences. At times it may even make us feel diminished as human beings or worse yet, invisible to those around us.
One writer has said that “Understanding is deeper than knowledge. There are many people who know you, but there are very few who understand you.” Being understood validates us, elevates our feeling of importance and provides us with a much needed sense of connection to the rest of the world. I call it “finding your tribe”.
As a new stay at home mom who had previously been accustomed to dressing up every day and having lunch discussions with my colleagues, I quickly decided that to avoid feeling alienated and alone, I needed to find my “mom tribe”. Those women who understood the language of sleep deprivation, colicky babies, stretch marks and middle of the night feedings. Those who celebrated a first tooth, first steps and first words. It was those women who understood my world and who helped calm my initial insecurities about meeting my baby’s needs.
We all need to find our tribe! They encourage, embrace and energize us to fulfill the assignment to which we aspire or to which life, itself, has assigned us. The tribe members provide us with identification, affirmation and a sense of community. We are no longer alone.
We all need to find our tribe!
Our son, Matt, and his wife, D’Lisa, have recently begun spearheading a ministry to families of special needs children at our church. I have attended as many of the meetings as I could to assist in the start up phase and what I have observed among these families is tremendous gratitude and a huge sense of relief that someone UNDERSTANDS them and their situation.
Not only are they being provided qualified, professional care for their children during the worship service they attend, but just as importantly they are being given the opportunity to meet with other families who appreciate the challenges they may face each and every day.
While we all enjoy the relief and satisfaction of finding someone who “speaks our language”, who “gets it”, or who can identify with our feelings, there may be instances when we just need some time to process our situation before sharing it with others. In those times it’s good to remember that we have a God who understands all. Psalms 147:5 declares “Great is our Lord and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit.”
And again in Isaiah 40:28: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
We have a Creator who completely understands and who consistently cares about the details of our lives. He is always cheering us on and ready to connect us to the resources we need to complete our journey well. He even wants to help you find your tribe. Psalms 133:1 makes this assessment, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
We have a Creator who completely understands and who consistently cares about the details of our lives.
If you, like my friend Jill and I, feel lost and like no one understands, keep searching, keep asking and keep making contact with other travelers along the way. Your tribe is waiting for you.