Saturday, March 14, 2009

Knowing God through Spiritual Friends

I'm back from a wonderful Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation (an Upper Room ministry).

Although they have all been good, including the Two-Year, I think this might have been the best one I've ever attended. The topic was Spiritual Friendship, and the faculty was Dr. Loyd Allen and Sister Kathleen Floyd. Wow. Both were excellent.

The local team that put the week together was excellent. We worship three times a day at Academies, and each time we entered the worship space, the team had created something of exquisite beauty. I just love that. So enriching.

Plus I just felt good being there. I was so ready for a break.

What made the week so outstanding, though, was how events served as a living testimony to the topic of spiritual friendship! I've been to so many Academies that I know a lot of attendees, and this week I had some special friends there, including The Author. Tuesday morning started out with a bang. I woke up from a terrible dream--the kind that it took a moment or two for me to realize it was just a dream, and then to feel this incredible relief. It was jarring, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. As I left my room that morning, CB was in the hall about to knock on my door--she wanted to let me know that The Author had taken a bad fall and was at the Emergency Room. Another jarring event. (She returned from the ER around lunch time and was okay, but on crutches the rest of the week.)

I told CB about my dream and her comment helped put to words the feeling of the dream.

Wednesday night is always a Healing and Wholeness Service at the Academy. I considered not going at all, but decided to make an appearance and then find a way to slip out. I just didn't want to be there...I wanted to be back in my room by myself. As the service began, I sat there, trying to devise my escape, when I suddenly rose and walked over to one of the healing stations, staffed by two other dear friends, DB and SW. I have NO IDEA why I did that. Honestly, I was sitting there thinking about how to leave when suddenly I found my feet heading in a direction I did not attend. Strange.

I sat down and started crying. I could barely talk, I was so confused, but managed to say something about this awful dream I'd had. SW prayed for me. They both hugged me tight and said we'd talk more tomorrow.

Which we did. And both affirmed what needed to be affirmed in me the next day. And they did that through sharing with me their own painful experiences. Oh, talk about powerful, and helpful.

By that day The Author was doing pretty well, and she and I decided to find a place to talk after lunch. She, too, said exactly what I needed to hear...profound balm for my troubled soul.

And each of these friends could not have spoken to me as they did without a firm foundation of love and trust. Without that, I could not have heard them--I would have rejected their words.

I spent some time during the week trying to think about what spiritual friendship really means. This is a work in progress, but it seems to me that it includes:
  • Trust. An ability to be vulnerable, to self-reveal, to get angry and talk it through, to bear the friend's confrontations/critiques in love.
  • Equality. At our core we are all children of God and equal. But equality is not sameness. These friends are wiser than I in different areas. They have different gifts.
  • Love. This is where respect lives. And I also realized that spiritual friends have given part of themselves to each other. When The Author fell and, upon her return, needed extra help, I wasn't "doing a good deed" when I brought her lunch to her, etc., for she is part of me. And love also includes commitment: I am committed to my spiritual friends' well being, to their flourishing.

Finally, though, a spiritual friendship means a Mysterious Connection that cannot be explained. When I sit with a spiritual friend talking, or in silence, or laughing hysterically (that's another story), there are moments in which, in some mysterious way, we touch the Divine.

Dr. Allen said that "Some people are given to know God through their friends."

Oh, yes.

1 comment:

Jan said...

Katherine, Dr. Allen's last quote is so beautiful and true. I'm so glad you had that wonderful week with spiritual learning, loving, and friends. You words are encouraging for the rest of us. You are my long-distance spiritual friend, thanks to that long-ago Two Year Spiritual Academy.