Monday, December 1, 2014

A Great Chorus Of Songs

As I approach my 40th birthday this month, I've been reflecting on this beautiful tradition... 

"There is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the child’s father, and teaches it to him.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome them into the world. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts themselves, someone picks them up and sings their song to them. When the child does something wonderful, as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song again.

If at any time during his or her adult life, the person is struggling or they fail at something, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.  The tribe recognizes that the answer to the person's struggle is love and helping them remember their identity."
We all start off as innocent little children who have a sense of our identity and who we were created to be. It's just easy to be who we are as little kids.  But over time, and through a number of factors, whether painful life circumstances or the negative messaging we battle on a daily basis about ourselves,  we can start to forget who we really are - we forget the song we've been given.  I spent many years going through life striving to please other people and find my value through that.  Before I knew it, I was stuck in relentless cycle of running as fast as I could, but only exhausting myself and never getting anywhere meaningful.  I lost myself in the fray and the chaos that was my life, and in turn, my song became a faint whisper that I strained to hear only on occasion.  
I can picture the importance of each of the moments when a child in this African tribe is picked up and sung to - both during celebration of milestones reached, as well as when they need comforted.  But I am willing to bet that the most transforming moments are those when the child has become an adult and they are struggling to find even a whisper of who they once were, or they've simply just forgotten over time.  Then there it is - that invitation to come into the center of the village where they are surrounded by their loved ones and their song is sung to them.

I believe in the power that people intrinsically have to look deeply at another person and see their light and what the unique thing is that they alone have been created to offer the world.  It isn't that we look at someone and decide FOR them what that unique thing is - it's that we remind them of what we see that has ALREADY been placed within them. They already have been given their own song, even before they drew their first breath - and our great responsibility and deep joy is reminding them of it over and over again.
I believe the greatest privilege of our lives is calling out the beauty and gifting in others. There is a reason we have been given community within which to live, work and play.  We NEED each other. Not only do we need each other so that we can be reminded of our own song, but we need each other's SONGS!  Every person's song and purpose is part of something larger.  Imagine a world where people know truly and deeply who they are, what their purpose is and how they are to live it out.  Imagine your children growing up into adults with their song having been sung to them and affirmed all their life. Imagine your work place full of people who are secure and confident in who they are, what they are doing and why they are doing it. Just imagine the kind of world that could exist!

And so the question becomes "Will we show up and give attention to our own song, letting it penetrate the deepest parts of our lives? Will we choose to remember who we have been created to be and engage whole-heartedly in our purpose?  And then, will we gather around the people who come into our lives and sing their song to them over and over, until they remember it and believe it to be true?  My answer is yes, because I can't afford not to.  There's a force inside of me that compels me because I know that time is precious and life is but a vapor - it's here for a moment and then it's gone, so there isn't a moment to waste living outside of my song. 

I will count it the greatest blessing, if at the end of my life when I am taking my last breath, there is a chorus of thousands of people's songs being sung in my heart.  If I have taken the time to truly see people for who they are and what they can become... if I will have sung their song to them over and over... then, I will have been true to my own song and will have found the greatest joy.