Monday, June 30, 2008

The Challenge of a Friend

by Charles Ringma

The rhythm of the inner life is the movement from where we are, with our fears, needs and busyness, to the place of quietness, unburdening and renewal. And from this place of transformation we can begin to move to re-engage our world with new-found hope and courage.

While the practice of this rhythm is a highly personal and individual affair, we are not suggesting that others cannot assist us in this journey. While we need to take responsibility for our own spiritual development and for our own lives, this does not mean that we need to be without companions on the road. Henri Nouwen admits: I now realise that I need regular contact with a friend who keeps me close to Jesus and continues to call me to faithfulness.

Such a friend cannot do the journey for us. Such a friend cannot provide ready-made answers. Such a friend cannot take away the struggle and cannot take away the pain and difficulty.

There is a road which we alone must walk. Decisions that we must make. Actions that we much perform. Pain that we must bear. Transformation that we must experience. Peace that we must imbibe. But a friend who journeys with us can challenge us to faithfulness and authenticity. Such a friend can encourage us to continue to make the hard decisions. The challenge such a friend offers is the challenge to continue to choose life.

My reflection:

I would not have reached this far in my walk with God had it not been for the people who challenged me to faithfulness...and fruitfulness.

For most of us, we live our lives based on a narrow perspective, travel through a more familiar path, and make use of our resources for self-gratification. But God, in His ever loving and gracious ways, constantly brings friends who can help us see life differently and lead us closer to Him.

I am grateful that many years ago, God brought a friend into my life. Even though my dear friend Marita is fourteen years older than I, she is always fun to be with. And in the course of our friendship, I realize that we all need someone who has traveled the world ahead of us: a guiding light.

During my most critical (and difficult) situations, the Lord used M to challenge my faith, my dreams, and especially my heart. She would ask me penetrating questions that made me stay up all night thinking about my life and groping for answers. She would urge me to seek Christ and His heart for me. And many times, she would correct me and remind me God's faithful ways.

My friend invested so much in me. She helped me realize a lot of things, challenged me to build my core values, labored with me so I know how to conduct myself well, and inspired me to live my life for God and for others.

Reflecting on what the author of the article has written, I realize, too, that while my friend continues to offer help in times of need, she cannot decide for me. She can only present me options, help me see things from a different point of view, but ultimately it's I who will make those hard decisions...and eventually face the consequences.

So I pray that God will continue to bring faithful friends into my life as He patiently molds me to be a guiding light to others as well. I pray that I will always learn to appreciate the love and blessings that flow through the pathway of friendships. :)

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