As I was reading in a new book I am going to review in a few days, I found (as I often do) many little sentences here and there that fueled my thinking. For me that usually means lots of those little “post it flags” attached to the edges of pages of the book I want to revisit.
The one that caught my attention this time was one by Dan Heath:
“…we don’t succeed by foreseeing the future accurately. We succeed by ensuring that we’ll have the feedback we need to navigate.”
There is no doubt that none of us (save the Lord alone) can accurately foresee the future. Many of us who live by the scouting principle of being prepared try to do so as much as possible. We cannot know when we will experience a job loss or a major repair for our cars or home, but we try to plan for that with insurance and a little extra money in the budget if possible. If we are lucky, we grew up around other older adults who told us this would be important before we ever experienced it ourselves.
That’s one area most of us learn about in one way or another and the lesson helps us navigate whatever hits us as we go – at least for those typical things we encounter like a hot water heater failing or a “fender bender” not covered by insurance.
Another area some of us do very well with is how we handle our health for the future. We plan with insurance coverage, try to eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. We know that as we age our bodies will begin to run into a need for a few repairs here and there and if we steward our health well, it may not prevent an unthinkable diagnosis but it will put us in a better position to avoid one or handle it better when it comes.
For a great many more of us we lose track of how time is flying and that drinking all those sodas every day are doing a number on us (even if they are not loaded with sugar). We continue work or party late into the night and forget our bodies were designed for regular rest and sleep. Our friends nudge us to take risks that we join without much thought to what it may cost us in the future, even if we are okay with them now.
It would help if we had something like a GPS system we commonly use now for all aspects of life. These newest ones we travel with not only tell us how to get from one point to another, but they also tell us about a pothole ahead on the highway, an accident that has stalled traffic that we won’t discover for another 30 minutes, and that there are alternate highways to take to avoid the dangers we might meet ahead.
No one has designed one of those, but perhaps they don’t need to do that (for as convenient as that might be). Maybe we have what we need already.
If we are following a Christian journey of transformation, we have a clear and evident option – the Holy Spirit – who is our very best companion to guide us through the sometimes-murky waters of daily life. Those subtle nudges and quiet whispers are meant to help us navigate the uncertain path of the future and help us succeed in ways far beyond temporal success.
Unfortunately, we too often don’t have very keen hearing, or we decide those nudges and whispers are of our own making and we ignore them. At times that can mean we miss out on a blessing of some sort, a glimpse of the Lord working that we might overlook. At other times it can mean we put ourselves at risk or in danger because we don’t make an appointment with our doctor or we forget about the condition of our tires as we are about to take a long trip.
That is when we most need spiritual friends who travel with us on the journey to speak into our lives when we don’t hear or tune out that one true companion to navigate into the future of each day.
It’s regrettable that not all of us are blessed with such persons in our lives or may not have them during certain seasons. Reading about the life of Christ and his companions – disciples – He journeyed with tell me they are important for more than one or two reasons.
In David Benner’s book, Sacred Companions, he describes the function of spiritual friends this way:
“The task of spiritual friends is to help us discern the presence, will and leading of the Spirit of God.”
I love that.
But if those spiritual friends seek to replace the Holy Spirit or if they lack wisdom and discernment as they walk with us, we can be tempted to refuse any offers from them or healthier spiritual friends that may come our way. That is not what faith teaches us, but our wounds can move us to do so at times.
“The Christian spiritual journey is a journey we take with others. Each of us must take our own journey, and for each of us that journey will be unique, but none of us is intended to make the journey alone. The myth of the solitary Christian making his or her way alone to paradise flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches about the church as the body of Christ.”
I think one of the things that hinders healthy spiritual friendship is our failure to pay attention to those relationships around us. We get so focused on our own life and all of its nuances that the relationship God may have provided withers for lack of nourishment.
Spiritual friends notice things about us, not just a new hair cut or diet plan. They notice things they sense that we may never talk about. They pick up on weariness without our telling them. They notice if we are quieter than usual. They can tell you a great deal about our heart and current walk with the Lord from what we say and what we don’t say.
That kind of friend is rare indeed, but a great gift to share the journey with. It’s not unlike the gift Frodo has in his friend, Sam, in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
When you read that, some of you lament that you don’t have such a person. Others of you immediately have the face of such a person in your past or current life come to mind.
The key to remember is you have one true companion – the Holy Spirit, who was given from a loving Father God to navigate the unseen future of every moment.