We’re doing 5:30-6:00am Lenten Devotional meditation series at the church right now.
This morning’s devotional lesson talked about the importance of having and nurturing spiritual friendships.
We have different friendships for the different sides of our personalities. We have friends we go out with. We have friends we work out with. We have friends we keep up with online. We have friends we talk to about books. We have friends who knew us back in the day. We have friends we trust with certain secrets. But what the ancients called spiritual friends are different. Spiritual Friends are people who pay attention to the presence and movement of God in your life. Their friendship brings focus to your spiritual life. When you hear from them, their queries about how you’re doing come down to one thing, “How goes your soul? Is it well within? Are you any further along on your spiritual path?”
In a general way, all true friendships are spiritual in the sense that they involve our spiritual faculties — the emotions and the will. Obviously this is not what is meant by spiritual friendship in the ancients’ mind when they wrote about spiritual friendships. They called those friendships spiritual which are created, sustained and nurtured by the Holy Spirit. A friend is someone who helps me get by. But a spiritual friend is someone who goes deeper, and helps me get by to another place … a place closer to God. In all honesty, some seasons you don’t want to hear from your spiritual friend. But those are precisely the times when you need most to talk and share with your spiritual friend. It is when you don’t want to be around your spiritual friend is when you need to hear most from her. You know she will be honest. You depend upon her honesty. You know she sees.
In a spiritual friendship we share about our spiritual lives in a way that encourages each one’s growth in God. More importantly, it’s with a friend of your spirit that you feel comfortable enough to admit to feelings of spiritual emptiness, sadness, anger, or nothingness. And your spiritual friend listens without judgment. After all the key characteristic of a spiritual friend is her ability to engage in “holy listening.”
Those of us who are great talkers often make lousy listeners.
According to Kay Lindahl, founder of the Listening Center, “most of us spend about 45 % of our waking hours listening, yet we are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful about 75 percent of that time. Marketing studies indicate that the average attention span for adult is 22 seconds. When someone has finished speaking, we remember about half of what we heard. Within a few hours we can recall only about 20%. The number of adults who have had training in listening skills is less than 5 % of our population. Most of us listen just enough to prepare for what we want to say in response. Lindahl concludes, “Deep listening is a forgotten art.”
Think of who might be a possible spiritual friend for you. If no one immediately comes to mind, ask God to help you find a person who can help you grow spiritually. Write down in a journal what you might want and need in a spiritual friendship. Write down what qualities you think are important in a spiritual friend.
And now comes the hard part. Make an honest appraisal of yourself. Ask yourself: Are I capable of being a good spiritual friend to someone else? Are there aspects of my self that might need to change before I can be an authentic friend to another person’s intimate journey with God?
Name 3-4 friends that help you connect with God? Can you name 2? How about 1?