Traveling together, a journey with one focus

“Just as the wise men traveled together to find Jesus in the manger, so we travel together to find Jesus born in our souls.”  Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction, Alice Fryling

Have you encountered a companion along your journey that has helped you grow in your relationship with God, perhaps in the form of a friend, a spouse, a mentor, or a guide?  Have you encountered companions that seem to draw you further from God?  Which one brings you life?

I have had many companions in my short life.  Some have taught me about life, love and faith, some have comforted me, some have inflicted pain and some have guided me.  They all have one thing in common, the journey they accompanied me on was headed to one final destination.  My journey has been a walk through the valley, the desert, the mountainous terrain, along the beautiful springs rushing by and through the fields of a thousand flowers.  I have swam the depths of the ocean and soared on the wings of eagles.  All the while being accompanied by others to a destination in my heart to find Jesus waiting for me.  In the pain and in the joy, in the hardships and in the simplicity of life, there has always been one compass pointing to one direction.  The beauty of it all was that my companions helped me to see this path forward, whether they intended or not.

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There are going to be positive guides and companions in my life, spiritual friendships and mentors.  There will also be negative companions that will rip at my spirit, test my strength and weaknesses and prey on my vulnerabilities.  At the end of each day, it is I who am the one discerning the path to take to reach my destination.  When I don’t have my eyes focused on Jesus, I will miss the path to take.  I will wander off onto a path that is lonely and treacherous.  I will have no companion and I will only seek the desires of my self will.  This is when I find myself broken and damaged, depressed and forgotten, hopeless and in disparity.  I will find myself needing companionship to be alive, to continue along my journey.  When I see myself in such a desolate state, it is imperative that I seek companionship.

In the book the “Inner Compass,” Margaret Silf draws on a unique perspective of companionship and our need for others in guiding us to our final destination.  In 1 Kings 19:19, Elijah sees Elisha and when “he came to Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing behind twelve yoke of oxen, he himself with the twelfth, Elijah passed near to him and threw his cloak over him.”  What she goes on to describe is the act of plowing a furrow, “your furrow of life.”  Ahead of you, you have 11 oxen, helping you carry the load and keep your eye on the focal point so that you stay on a straight path as you plow.  You are not alone in your journey, you have companions that will help guide you and keep you focused on the destination, Jesus.  We all have a story to tell along our journey, our faith share.  It is in this story, that we see our 11 oxens, our companions that help keep us focused on Jesus.  Perhaps, a few of these companions may be your anamchara, Celtic for “soul friend”.   We also see those that help us become stronger in our faith because of the trials we endure.  In all circumstance it is you and I that are the ones making the choices that mold our story into a faith share that only we can claim.

Are you going to allow others to travel with you “to find Jesus born in [your] soul?”   Are you going to allow them to help you companion with you to keep your eyes on the focal point, Jesus?  He is the destination and the ultimate companion, but He gives you others in your life to let you know you are not alone.  He speaks to your heart through them as they guide you, mentor you, keep you grounded in His love for you.  Have you thought about who are your 11 oxens, who are your “soul friends”?

Has God placed a friend or a community in your life?

“God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle.  In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.”  St. Maximilian Kolbe

Do you have that one true friend that would lay down their life for you?  What about a community of friends?  Is there one friend or many friends that have been there in the midst of most or all of your struggles? In a moment of weakness, has a friend or your community of friends given you strength as a result of their support?

Today as I was taking my morning stroll around the pond on our company’s campus to clear my mind and talk to God, there was a momma duck and 3 babies at the edge of the pond and 4 ducks were sitting on the bridge rails above her. As I approached, one duck began making lots of noise. I watched for a while. I realized these 4 ducks on the rails were protecting the mother duck and her ducklings by giving her a warning signal of my presence nearby, potential danger.

I thought that was quite interesting and began to reflect on the example these ducks revealed to me of a community of friends, a family. Like the mother duck protecting her ducklings, God protects us when we are in trouble. And just as the 4 ducks on the rail were on the outside looking in, serving as warnings and advisors, our community of friends and family do for us.

It is important in times of struggle and need to have a support system. Often in the midst of your issues, you don’t see clearly or see the entire picture. Your support system is your wide lens, helping you to see the things you don’t. The friends in your life that guide you in accordance with God’s will are unique in your life. They are hand selected. They are not placed in your life on accident but for that very moment where God knows not only do you need the protector at your side but an advisor to be present with you on His behalf to guide you away from danger.

Over the years, God has strategically brought many friends into my life at pivotal moments to support me in accordance with His will. I know I can call several people in my community of friends in a moment and ask for a flood of prayers, guidance, or just a listening ear. Often I feel guilty that I may be wearing my prayer line out or the ears on which I pour out to. At the end of the day, these ladies will always be advisors, comforters, and words of warning when I am in danger or just in need of a reminder of His presence. God placed them in my life to reveal His very own love and guidance to me.

We are all connected in God’s divine plan and it is no coincidence when new friendships are formed. It is no coincidence when you need help in the midst of a struggle and a friend calls you or drops by to just say hi. With the help of the Holy Spirit, your friends are advocates in fulfilling God’s plan in you through support, love, and guidance.

Treasure the community around you that God put in your path. Call them to tell them thank you for being a part of your life. Let them know that their love reveals the love of your Heavenly Father and how much you need and appreciate their comfort and compassion. If you are at odds with a friend, go to confession, ask for forgiveness and ensure to contact your friend with an apology and an act of love and kindness.

Community

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ…  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share in its joy.  1 Corinthians 12:12,26

When you read these verses, what does it mean to you?  How do you view your Christian community?  Is it the body of Christ, made up of many parts, many people that work together to serve others, that suffer together, that rejoice together?

We live in a culture that tends to highlight all the ugly in our communities, in our world.  Many people may believe that the body of Christ is non existence, the community is broken and everyone is in it for himself.

When Christ is the heartbeat of the community, the parts of that community make up one body and do serve others, suffer together, and rejoice together.  Love overflows from each individual into the other, connected by the blood flow from the heart of Christ.  In order to thrive, the parts of the community must each be life giving to one another.  If the arm is broken, the rest of the body compensates to help heal the brokenness.  So does the parts of the community.   If one individual is hurting financially, medically, emotionally, the rest of the community pours out love in various ways to heal the individual who is hurting.

Several months ago, I found myself in the ER facing an unexpected surgery.  Being a single mom and not having any family around, I was full of anxieties.  “What was I going to do?  How was I going to take care of everything?  This can’t happen to me.”   Little did I know, I was a part of the body of Christ.  I had reached out to a few new sisters in Christ I had recently met asking for prayer.

I lay in a room in the ER crying because I had no control of what was happening and couldn’t take care of the things I was responsible for.   As I lay there, there was a knock on the door to my room.  I thought it was just the nurse.  As the door open, one of my new sisters, peaked her head through the door.  At that moment, I felt a release of the anxiety that had been holding on to me.  She sat with me and comforted me until I was called to surgery.  After surgery, several of my new sisters visited me in the hospital, bringing moments of joy and laughter.  I was flooded with phone calls and texts asking me what I would need when I was released from the hospital.  Anytime I mentioned a concern or worry, within minutes it was already taken care of.  They tended to my needs in the hospital, departing the hospital and at home.  Before I knew it, I had my aftercare taken care of by two of my beautiful sisters that were retired nurses, food to last for a week and my weekly groceries taken care of.  I was appalled with emotions of the love that these ladies in my church community poured out on me.  They, as the various parts of Christ’s body, were an extension of my suffering as they nurtured my needs.  Their strength compensated for my weakness.  Today, I find myself in a similar situation, and yet again am overwhelmed with love from the support and care of my church family, my beautiful sisters in Christ.

These beautiful ladies, my community of sisters in Christ are one of the examples of what St. Paul meant in his letter to the Corinthians when he told them they were the parts of the body of Christ.  As Christians and a community, we are called to use our talents to support one another.  We are called to suffer when one suffers and aid in their suffering.  We are called to rejoice when one is honored.  We are each given different gifts, strengths and weaknesses, to use together to make up the unity of the community, the one body of Christ.  This is the will of our Heavenly Father as He has intricately placed each of us in our community to aid as sisters and brothers, part by part, as one body.