A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you forget the words.
A few months ago, I read a story about a tribe in southern Africa called Babemba. Within the Babemba tribe, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, all work in the village comes to a halt. Instead of treating the person with contempt and judgment, the entire village forms a circle around the person and, one by one, regardless of age or gender, recalls all the good things the person has done in his or her lifetime: good deeds, good character traits, responsibility within the community, every incident, experience, positive attributes, strengths & kindnesses. No one is permitted to fabricate or exaggerate. This doesn’t end until everyone has spoken and everyone is drained of every POSITIVE comment about the person. This ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, the circle is broken and the person is celebrated back into community. The accused is appreciated back into a better part of him or herself, given a chance to see their importance within the community.
I also read that when a woman in the Babemba tribe finds out she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends to pray and meditate until they discover the song of the child. They believe every soul has its own vibration. Once they hear it, they sing it out loud then go back to teach it to everyone else. This song is sung at every important event for the child: at birth, when entering education, initiation into adulthood, when he or she marries, and when about to die. A person’s song is also sung as he or she is welcomed back into the tribe.
The tribe recognizes that the best correction for behavior is not punishment, but a remembrance of identity. They know that a friend is someone who can see past the ugly things you see in yourself and can see all the beautiful things. We all need friends like that, don’t we? Friends who can remind us of the better parts of ourselves, who can encourage us, strengthen us, and help us to move on.
Think back to the circle. Imagine your spouse, your child, your friend, your coworker in the circle. What would you say to them. Now imagine yourself in that circle. What would you say to yourself?
How humbling such an experience would be! How different might our churches, our families, our communities, our country, our world be if we practiced this kind of love and grace?
Do you realize that our God and Savior does this for us?
He tells us that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” God’s Word encircles us and reminds us of who we are:
Now go out and show others this amazing love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy!