Joy is hearing a friend tell me they love me and see the beauty of God shining in me. I am grateful to have had friends throughout my life who say such things to me. It is a treasure to my soul when the people who know me best, quirks and imperfections and all, gift me with these words.
I was reading my daily devotion from Madeleine L’Engle this morning when I had the insight that spiritual friendships are just as important as spiritual practices. As L’Engle noticed, “Too often we do take God for granted.” I often think of practices like silence, study and singing as ways to connect with God. Practices like these, and many others, are great disciplines for nurturing my soul. For me, though, sharing these practices with friends makes them much better. Even silence is richer when I am with friends.
I love that I have friends who will listen to my stories, encourage me, laugh with me, and spend time with me. Spiritual friends also help me awaken to the beauty and newness of God that surrounds me and is within me each day. With their presence, words, and actions, spiritual friends remind me not to take God for granted. For these reasons, part of my sabbatical schedule includes time with at least one friend every day.
I have had many spiritual guides during my life. Some are people close to me: family members, friends, teachers and co-workers. Others are people who I know only through their writings: theologians, novelists, mystics, and poets. By sharing their widsom and experiences, these people have helped me along on my own spiritual journey. When I feel stuck or empty or in need of inspiration, spiritual guides have helped me find clarity and peace. They have also led me into a deeper connection with God.
During my sabbatical, I have decided to spend time each day with a spiritual guide. The one I have chosen is new to me, though many of you know her: Madeleine L’Engle. (No, not Sawyer from Lost! Though he did read her famous novel, A Wrinkle in Time, in several Lost episodes.)
I don’t remember if I’ve ever read A Wrinkle in Time or any of L’Engle’s other novels, though I think not. What I wasn’t aware of is that she also wrote volumes of her reflections on the spiritual life. Daily, now, I am reading from a book entitled 40-Day Journey with Madeleine L’Engle. In the introduction, the editor introduces L’Engle by saying,
Madeleine walked this journey herself, leaving us her personal legacy as a witness to the ‘million surfaces’ of the Christian life, accessible in varying degrees to any who also take this journey. Seeking not only a life of prayer and reflection and love, but also one of maturity, is the overriding theme of these pages – as her quotes express the fine distinctions that a soul must deal with in the exigencies of life.
I will share insights from my journey with Madeleine L’Engle over the summer. Who are your spiritual guides? What have you learned from them? I am interested to hear about your experiences.