I have met weekly with a friend in a spiritual companionship/accountability relationship for over a decade. It has been a lifeline for both of us. We share everything about our lives, our children, our jobs. We know things about each other that no one else knows as we have practiced the discipline of confession with each other on numerous occasions. We have rafted the Grand Canyon together, cried over and celebrated our children, and have done spiritual formation book studies together.Because of this relationship, my walk as a Christ-follower is stronger. I am also convinced more than ever that a relationship of this nature is something every Christ-follower needs to find and cultivate. We cannot adequately practice our faith in a vacuum and Scripture does not support “Lone Ranger Christianity.” Following Christ in community is the Biblical norm.
Three things I have learned from this relationship are:
- We will not grow in Christ if we have no one to share our dirty laundry with. We must, I believe, practice here on earth the confession that will happen at the Last Judgment. Standing naked (fully exposed and vulnerable) in front of Christ will be hard. It will be especially hard if we have never exposed our deepest sins to another here on earth in practice.
- We must ask for and get honest feedback from someone who knows us well. We are to receive that feedback with a humble, teachable spirit. Everyone needs regular, intentional, meaningful, intimate feedback. It is wonderful when that can come from a parent or a spouse but if those aren’t options, and often, even when they are, finding a spiritual friend or mentor to do that for us is critical.
- We need to be loved unconditionally by someone, as much as that is possible here on earth. My friend loves me despite my flaws and continued struggles around the same issues. And I love her. Because of that love, it is safe for us to do #1 and #2 with each other. Over time and in a variety of circumstances, we have proved that we are there for each other through thick and thin, seeking to be the physical presence of Christ to the other in all situations.
Finding a soul friend, spiritual director, accountability partner, spiritual mentor—whatever the term or structure of relationship—is a matter for prayer and intentionality. Some steps you can take may include the following:
- This person may not necessarily be your best friend. Look around your faith community. Who seems to be wise? Who seems to follow Christ in deep ways? Consider approaching them about beginning a mentoring or spiritual companionship relationship.
- http://www.sdiworld.org/ is the web site for Spiritual Directors International. They have information on how to find a spiritual director if you want a relationship that is more formal.
- Help to build a small group ministry in your church if there isn’t one devoted to discipleship. Small peer support groups of various kinds can be good but ask yourself if there are any solely devoted to spiritual formation. Renovare.org has resources for small groups centered around spiritual formation.
However you decide to proceed, “just do it!” In this plugged-in-yet-disconnected-world, we need each other today more than ever to grow into more Christ-likeness.
Join the Conversation
Do you have someone in your life that can be a “lifeline” for you?
If so, how has that relationship formed and changed you?
Valerie Hess is an author, instructor in the Spring Arbor University’s Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Leadership (MSFL) program, retreat speaker, musician, mother and pastor’s wife. She does a weekly blog at www.valeriehess.com and has written numerous articles, mostly on the themes of spiritual formation through the spiritual disciplines and church music. She has written three books: Habits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines (co-authored with Dr. Marti Watson Garlett), Spiritual Disciplines Devotional: A Year of Readings and The Life of the Body: Physical Well-Being and Spiritual Formation" (co-authored with Lane M. Arnold). Her husband is an Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, CO. She has two daughters.