Each month I explore at least one spiritual discipline on my blog. This month, I explore the discipline of “spiritual friendship.” (I included some links at the bottom of this post to help you learn more about spiritual disciplines.)
Defining “Spiritual Friendship”
Sacred Companions by David G. Benner (Twitter: @drdavidgbenner) is, in my opinion, the best resource for understanding what is meant by the term “spiritual friendship.” Benner uses two phrases that are helpful in our discussion on “spiritual friendship”: soul friendship and spiritual friendship. From Sacred Companions (p15-16):
A soul friendship is… a relationship to which I bring my whole self, especially my inner self. And the care that I offer for the other person in a soul friendship is a care for his or her whole self, especially the inner self. Soul friends seek to safeguard each other’s uniqueness and nurture the growth of each other’s inner self….
Spiritual friends nurture the development of each other’s souls. Their love for each other translates into a desire ethat the other settle for nothing less than becoming all that he or she was intended to be…
Spiritual friends are soul friends…. Soul friends become spiritual friends when they seek to help each other attend and respond to God.
Here is my own working (and wordy) definition of spiritual friendship for the purposes of this discussion: “Spiritual friends are disciples of Jesus Christ who share their spiritual journey with one another, seek to encounter Christ together, listen to the Spirit together, pray to Father together, and celebrate one another’s spiritual growth together.”
Spiritual Friendship Is EssentialThe importance of spiritual friendship cannot be overstated. Benner unashamedly says: “If you are making significant progress on the transformational journey of Christian spirituality, you have one or more friendships that support that journey. If you do not, you are not. It is that simple” (p16). In other words, it is impossible to grow in your faith if you do not have a spiritual friend sharing your journey.
Later in Sacred Companions, Benner offers several reasons why spiritual friends are essential to spiritual growth.
Some spiritual friends offer us help in knowing ourselves, while others offer help in knowing God. The best offer us both. This is a central feature of the gift of a true spiritual friend.
Note that I said that deep knowing of self and God requires deep knowing of and by others. Intimate relationships with others prepare us for intimacy with God. It is hard for me to imagine how someone could experience an intimate personal relationship with God and be unable to experience such a relationship with others. (p41)
As you know, I advocate a whole-person understanding of Christian spirituality, and a big part of that understanding is the role that spiritual community (friendships) play in spiritual formation.
Do You Have a Spiritual Friend?
This is a tall order for sure: that growth is heavily dependent upon spiritual friendships. The good news is that you probably already have potential spiritual friendships already. All you have to do is intentionally cultivate a spiritual friendship together. Benner again:
The potential for spiritual friendship lies undetected all around us–not just in our churches but also in our homes, workplaces and communities. Tragically, those who seek such friendships often fail to see the possibilities that already exist in their lives. (p16)
Who do you share your journey with? Do you have a spiritual friend?
Spiritual Discipline Resources
Here are a couple of links from my blog related to spiritual disciplines:
- Spiritual Disciplines Page – A list of all disciplines I have explored on my blog.
- What Are Spiritual Disciplines?
- What Is “Spirituality?”
- What Is “Spiritual Formation?” (“Spiritual Growth”)
Join the Conversation
- Do you have a spiritual friend? If not, what will you do this week to develop a spiritual friendship?
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