“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.
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”?