Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spiritual Friendship

Once a month, I get in my car and drive to a religious retreat in another town that is exactly equidistant between my house and the Hysteric Cleric's. We meet to discuss spiritual things (right now, we're in the middle of Nouwen's Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith).

There are paths winding through the woods of the retreat. We have one path we usually take, but this time, we decided to go a different way. First we wound up at at a disc golf course, then we went another way and wound up blocked by a giant cobweb across the path. We didn't want to disturb Ms. Spider, so we went back to our old faithful path. Talking, talking, talking ... we looked up -- where were we? Where was the bench we usually come to?

We eventually turned around and went back. Never could figure out where we missed a turn. It's like we landed on a different path than had ever been there.

I'm sure there's a metaphor in there. 

We encourage each other, and we push each other to go deeper, to connect with our understandings of the Divine, and to ask ourselves important questions about being.

(And frankly, we give our loving spouses a break from all the "How is your soul" stuff that they tolerate, but must grow weary of.)

I have another spiritual friend, the DRE-BFF. Among other aspects of our relationship, she holds steady in her unwavering ethics and has high expectations of me. (And I, of her.)

Last year, Oprah interviewed Martha Stewart and they talked about how the woman Martha Stewart thought was her best friend testified against her.

I retold this story to the DRE-BFF. She didn't pause a second. "You commit insider trading, I'll testify against you, too!"

If you don't have a friend who holds you to the highest standards, who would testify against you if you broke the law... I'm sorry. And I hope you can find one.

The Hysteric Cleric and I were talking about being "The Beloved" this time, and I asked him when he felt beloved. I won't go into the details, but it will suffice to say that he feels deeply, profoundly loved by his spouse.

It is a tremendous gift and one I wholeheartedly relate to. People often talk about how our understandings of God come from our relationship with our parents. Yet religious texts also often speak of God in the terms of a lover. It seems only logical, to me, that romantic or eros love can give us insight into what we know of the Divine.

The Husband is a spiritual friend. He knows the depth and breadth of what I envision for my call; he cheers it on, makes my steps toward it possible. He calls me back to it when I feel a little lost.

Enlarged in his vision, I feel beloved and I feel I am The Beloved.
"...How do we know that we are not deluding ourselves...that we are not just listening to the voice of our own imagination? Who can judge their own heart? Who can determine if their feelings and insights are leading them in the right direction? ... We need someone who helps us to distinguish between the voice of God and all the other voices coming from our own confusion...We need someone who encourages us when we are tempted to give it all up, to forget it all, and to just walk away in despair. We need someone who cautions us when we move too rashly in unclear directions or hurry proudly toward a nebulous goal...we explore in the presence of another wise companion or two God's claim upon our lives, what has been and what may now be." -- Henri Nouwen
I am blessed with spiritual friends. I hope you are, too.

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