Informal Spiritual Direction

In my experience, spiritual direction often occurs informally.  For many years my friend, Nancy, has been a spiritual companion.  Nancy and I were college roommates.  When we first met, she was a firm Christian and I was claiming to be an atheist!  Actually, I think this was a way of daring God to show up in my life, which He did.  Over the years Nancy and I have remained friends and grown in faith together.  We don’t get together in person very often, so we correspond by letter and email.  Nancy is someone to whom I can pour out my heart and know she will listen without judging.  Sometimes she asks hard questions I don’t really want to think about or answer.  Although we have never “decided” to become spiritual guides to one another, the spiritual dimension of life is always an important part of our “conversations.”  We discuss family and congregational life, important transitions, insights from our study, our prayer life and struggles and more, always from the perspective of discerning God’s presence and will for our lives.  We also pray for one another.  I did an earlier post about every Christian needing a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy in their lives …Nancy has been my Barnabas, walking alongside, encouraging and sharing.  I hope I have been a Barnabas friend to her as well.

Nancy was the person who sponsored me on my Via de Cristo weekend, certainly one of the milestones in my faith journey.  Via de Cristo encourages participants to form “reunion groups” and when this is done properly, these groups also become a form of  spiritual direction.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post about mutual spiritual direction in my reunion group…

 

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Iron Sharp

This article was originally published in The Lutheran Ambassador and also reprinted with permission in The Lutheran Digest.

The book of Proverbs tells us:

A friend loves at all times.”

It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t want that kind of acceptance, isn’t it?  Yet recent studies reveal that 25 percent of Americans have no close friends at all;  another 19 percent have only one confidante (usually their spouse);  and that these unfortunate trends have been increasing over the past 20 years.

A good friend can be an important element in our spiritual life and development.  Now, by good friend I don’t mean the kind of friendly acquaintance with whom we share some common interests or activities.  A true soul friend knows us and accepts us as we really are.  We are honest and vulnerable with them.  We trust them to hear our confessions and keep our confidences.  They love us no matter what, and they always point us toward Jesus.

David found such a friend in Jonathan, who “helped him find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16).  One author says, these are the friends who make us “run hard after God.”

I have been blessed by a number of spiritual friendships, including a long-lasting relationship with my college roommate, Nancy.  We don’t see each other very often because we are busy people who no longer share a room or go to classes together.  We stay in touch by writing letters and sending emails.  Once or twice a year, we meet at a church about midway between our homes.

We bring our lunch and eat together.  We pray.  We share our experiences.  We talk openly about our families, our problems, our joys and our struggles.  Nancy rarely tells me what she thinks I should do,  Instead she asks me to consider what God would have me do.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Nancy sharpens my awareness of God.  Meeting with her and writing to her becomes a spiritual practice, a life-giving activity that helps me notice how God is working in my life.

Some spiritual friendships, like my friendship with Nancy, just seem to evolve and deepen over time.  When this happens, it’s a bit of God’s grace.  Give thanks if you already have this blessing!  However, we can also be intentional in our pursuit of sould friends.

If you do not have such a friend, pray about it and see who God brings across your path.  You might start by asking someone you know and trust to become a prayer partner.  Meet regularly, share concerns, pray with each other and for each other.  You will be amazed to find your friendship drawing you closer to your true self, closer to other Christians, and closer to God.