“The language of telling people what to think and what to do dominates most leadership paradigms in the church, with very little attention given to the actual details of being a Christian in the home and workplace…There are, however, serious efforts being made…to recover a leadership of companionship and a spirituality of relationship.
Eugene Peterson, Foreward to Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others in Their Leadership Journey by Randy Reese and Robert Loane (IVP, 2012), pages 7-8.
There are tremendous seductions to be experts in our fields. People with knowledge that others need and to provide that knowledge via workshops, programs, and trainings. Nothing wrong with these means. I provide them regularly.
But make no mistake this is not “a leadership of companionship and a spirituality of relationship.”
A Spirituality of Companioning Others
Let’s be honest: Relationships can be hard. Messy. Confusing.
What’s more: Life change takes, well, a life-time. Slow. Often mundane with occasional “aha’s” breaking through.
It’s so much easier to show up for a three-day gig, off load info, have some meaningful conversations over meals and be on one’s way. Again, nothing wrong with this, but….
Life change comes over the course of long-term, abiding relationships.
Abiding in life-long relationships is a true spiritual practice. It is a means of grace to open us up to the abiding, transforming presence of God, just like any other spiritual practice.
Our spiritual maturity is severely diminished when we resort to a hit-and-run, consumeristic sort of engagement with one another.
A spirituality of abiding requires much more of us than our expertise. It requires faithfulness, companioning, and bringing our very selves over a long period of time.
Faithfulness: Will I keep coming back around; Allowing boredom and the mundane to be part of the means of life change? Stick-to-it-ness. Constance. Reliability. Being there for harsh losses and major life celebrations, but especially over the long arc of ordinary-ness.
Companioning: What greater gift can we provide than an abiding presence over the course of decades? Walking side by side through the stages of life and career are means of walking well.
Bringing myself: The reality of long-term relationship is that you are going to see me at my best and worst. We are messy. I will have to apologize, so will you. I will have to forgive you, and you me. This is the very space and place that God does amazing transforming work. There are few places to hide in such relationships.
A Shepherding Companionship and A Spirituality of Abiding Care
What global workers need are shepherds who will show up in their living rooms and walk their streets. Frankly, these experiences have been my most deeply rewarding.
I remember having a nerf ball war with Tim and his two young sons in their small village home in Cambodia. There we were on the word plank floors chucking balls at one another. Its the same type of mayhem that ensued in my own family room with my own boys. Yet, this particular play required days of air travel and hours of car rides. Those boys are now in college. Tim and his wife are still on the field. No, a nerf ball war did not keep them on the field. And yet, these visits allowed for lingering conversation and honest wrestlings along the way. Tim and his wife are heroes of mine, they are still scattering the Gospel seed in tough soil.
A Spirituality of Abiding
Jesus abides with us. He invites us to abide with him.
Jesus, the Word, has placed his word in us. He invites us to abide in his word. It changes us from the inside out.
As Jesus companions us, so we are invited to companion others. This is the stuff of lasting life change.
May the fellowship of Spirit open up all around us ways and means of abiding, companioning presence with one another.
Scott, I really would like to explore this theme of the spirituality of companioning others in more depth. Are there any books you would recommend?
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Thanks Scott. Your thoughts are always a great encouragement and a call to stay with what is important.
Bless you Jeff. Trust you are well. SS
Scott, oomph. That hits hard. My own tendency is to enter into a limited relationship when I disciple; that way, I try to avoid the unknowns of time commitment, or getting into a situation where I lack the capacity to provide guidance, or where my true insufficiency might be revealed, or where there might be some long-lasting pain…in other words, I am seeking to protect myself before I seek to serve others and allow the Lord to work through me. I have become so used to focusing on “healthy boundaries” that I don’t know what it looks like to die to myself, to take up the cross daily. And yet, how wonderful and deep the abiding with Jesus becomes when I am unable to avoid my neediness! Thanks for pointing us to him. ML
Michael, thanks for your reflections. Yes, that line between “boundaries” and self-giving is a tough one to discern, and our current culture does not help us much here. We seem to kill ourselves running to meetings and programs but have insufficient time to just companion people – hang out. Quite the pickle. Bless you as you tend to others in your world. SS