My Dear One,
In my life and ministry, I’ve been incredibly blessed to journey with people at every age and stage of their life journey. I am humbled by all I’ve gotten to witness: I’ve baptized newborn babies and I’ve held the hands of the dying. I’ve sung to preschoolers and I’ve led bible studies for the elderly. I’ve taught all ages in a one-room intergenerational Sunday School in rural Texas. I’ve served as a chaplain at a private Pre-K to 8th grade religious school and I’ve served as a college campus chaplain at a local community college. I’ve led youth and adult mission trips from rural Appalachia to the Texas/Mexico border. I’ve counseled young people preparing for marriage and I’ve consoled people going through divorce. I’ve been their spiritual director, pastor or friend. Sometimes all three. And in all of these instances, I’ve learned that there is one thing people need from me and exactly one thing: authenticity.
Authenticity is, perhaps, the common thread that allows us to effectively engage in intergenerational spiritual companionship.
People need authentic people in their lives who can embrace the humanity and divinity of them both. Though they might like a meaningful discussion, they do not need me to answer all their questions. Though they might need an outside perspective, they do not need me to tell them what to do. Though they might have made mistakes, they do not need me to point out to them what they might have done differently. What they need is someone to be an authentic person with them.
And this isn’t as easy as it might seem. We are trained from a very young age to be in-authentic. As toddlers we are guided into society’s gender norms. As children we are taught “right from wrong.” As teenagers we are shamed for who we are and who we are not. As young adults we are told we need to “become somebody.” As middle-aged adults we are expected to demonstrate that we in fact “became somebody.” And as older adults we are expected, as poet Dylan Thomas lamented, to “go gentle into that good night.”
At what stage in life are we encouraged to be authentically who we are and assured that that person is as normal and as good and as acceptable and as worthy and as valued as any other person? There isn’t one. And so it is our profound honor as spiritual guides, as tenders of the soul, to provide space for that message to emerge. In ancient times, people blessed one another and that blessing was a life-changing event. People still need to be blessed. Many people could be healed by a simple blessing by another person who is being authentic, humble and vulnerable.
I have been fortunate enough to blessed many times in life-changing ways. I was blessed by my grandparents whose love for me made me proud of my family name. I was blessed by an elderly pentecostal African-American woman who grabbed me and laid hands on my head as I filed out of their afternoon revival. I was blessed by an Uber driver who sensed I was troubled in spirit and proceeded to engage me in the most honest and frank conversation I’ve ever had with a total stranger. When we got to my destination, before I got out of her car, she turned around and said to me, “You’re a good person. Don’t ever doubt yourself again.”
Even writing these words still makes me tear up.
And so it is as simple as this. Whatever the age of the other person or whatever our own age, when we allow ourselves to see and be seen, without judgement, without need to correct or change, without anything in our hands but love and a prayer for the other, that is when we do our work and do it well. It takes work at times to be that kind of person. I have to remind myself to lay aside all my aspirations towards self-importance. I have to stay in touch with my own authentic self. But when I do, and I allow others to as well, their soul lights up and I see in their eyes the gratefulness that comes from that moment of blessing: being accepted in all their glorious contradiction, both sinner and saint, both lover and loather, both lost and found, both divine and human.
In a word: authentic.
following The Way,
Are you interested in really working on deepening the spirituality of your life this year?
Think about joining following The Way’s 2019 monthly online gatherings called The Session.
These online classes meet in the evenings on the first Monday of every month. Each class will lead us in a learning time where I will walk you through The Way, the Four Essential Truths, what it means to love God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength, and how doing this leads to a balanced and integrated life. In the second half of each Session, we will experience a group spiritual direction practice that connects with the learning from that day and concludes with a closing prayer. Then I will send you on your way with resources to explore each of these concepts and fully integrate them into your life over the course of the coming month.
It is the culmination of years of personal exploration, research, living life according to this way and seeking the wisdom of others who do the same!
Additionally, I will be available to coach you in your work, either by email or in a more intentional way as your personal spiritual guide.
Interested? The Session class and support is available to everyone who is a member of the following The Way® community as a “Join the Journey” or “Journey +” subscriber. To sign up for either one of these levels, click here.
Join now! The next session is on Monday, February 4th at 9pm Central Time.
Join the Journey now to be a part of it all!
This Week’s Elder - John O'Donohue
The book Anam Cara by John O’Donohue helped spark a renewed interest in Celtic spirituality and spiritual companionship. This week, we have his interview by Krista Tippett of On Being. Here is the description of this episode from their website:
No conversation we've ever done has been more beloved than this one. The Irish poet, theologian, and philosopher insisted on beauty as a human calling. He had a very Celtic, lifelong fascination with the inner landscape of our lives and with what he called "the invisible world" that is constantly intertwining what we can know and see. This was one of the last interviews he gave before his unexpected death in 2008. But John O'Donohue's voice and writings continue to bring ancient mystical wisdom to modern confusions and longings.
Listen and read a transcript here:
Anam Cara by John O'Donohue
Description from Amazon: John O'Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for "soul friend," the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death as:
Light is generous
The human heart is never completely born
Love as ancient recognition
The body is the angel of the soul
Solitude is luminous
Beauty likes neglected places
The passionate heart never ages
To benatural is to be holy
Silence is the sister of the divine
Death as an invitation to freedom
Question of the Week:
What qualities have you experienced in others that let you know they were being authentic with you? How can you better embody and express authenticity towards others?