David Brenner in his book Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction reflects on why we need companions in our Christian journey. In essence, a spiritual friend helps you to do three things: To know God better, to know yourself better, and to become a person with a greater capacity for intimacy.
He writes: “We need companions on the Christian journey for a number of reasons. First among these is that the deep knowing of both self and God foundational to Christian spirituality demands deep knowing of and being known by others. Neither knowing God nor knowing self can progress very far apart from others who are able and willing to offer us help. Some spiritual friends offer us help in knowing ourselves, while others offer help in knowing God. The best offer us both. This is a central feature of the gift of a true spiritual friend.
Note that I said that deep knowing of self and God requires deep knowing of and by others. Intimate relationships with others prepare us for intimacy with God. It is hard for me to imagine how someone could experience an intimate personal relationship with God and be unable to experience such a relationship with others. The gift of those who accompany us on the spiritual journey is not merely that they help us know God and ourselves. It is also that, by virtue of their relationship to us, they help us become people who are capable of intimacy — an essential element in the Christian character that is the goal of the journey.
Love is cultivated only in close soul relationships. We can probably learn something about love in interactions with strangers, but the transforming work of becoming the great lovers that Christ desires us to be demands the grist of more intimate relationships. It is in soul friendships that we encounter the greatest possibilities for progress in the school of love. Journeying together brings opportunities for discovering the magnitude of our narcissism and developing a heart of genuine love.”
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