A family is a gift of God – our Creator. It is the place of love and nutritious relationships where a couple and their child, should they have one or more, may grow and feel love. Growing up can be very challenging for the child and parenting a child can be downright difficult. We have drivers education for new drivers but virtually no training for new parents. Parents are the first spiritual leaders for children. Sadly, for many families we have witnessed an abdication of responsibility to institutional teachers and trainers. Don’t misunderstand, there are many dedicated, loving, nurturing, and nutritious Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, and mentors in the community of faith but parents must not give up their primary role as spiritual leaders in their home.
Parents this is a call for you to also work on your spiritual growth and discipleship. Often this can take place with nurturing friendships and small groups that help to teach us and heal us. These small groups can become like pools of living water into which we are dipped and brought out whole. Robert Louis Stevenson said,
“So long as we love, we serve; so long as others love us, I should say that we are almost indispensable; and so no (person) is useless while he (or she) has a friend.”
Close friendships built on the foundation of faith give us a glimpse of eternal love – agape, as the Greek New Testament would put it. Such friendships grow deeper over time. Loyalty in the face of adversity strengthens them, rather than weakens them. Accountability and what we might call “care-frontation,” as opposed to confrontation, becomes a natural part of the depth in these nourishing relationships. These friendships are a gift of joy, humor, and often adventure as disciples tackle the miraculous will of God.
Deep friendships grow our souls. This is what Jesus tried to show his twelve over the three years they spent together. They in a very real way sensed shared one another’s life. While we see people living out “virtual relationships,” theirs were very real. I find that people long for these truly nurturing relationships but often don’t seek them out because they see themselves as time-crunched and unable to participate in the deeper experiences and intimacy which come with such relationships. This is what disciples are called to seek.
We are not islands. We were not designed for a hermits life. Some seek it as a way of escape or discipline, yet, there is still a need to be with people and to be away from them. We are called to be purposeful. We whither without nutritious relationships just the same as we would wither with toxic relationships. It is important to know the difference. Constant negativity, controversy, gossip, and spiritual doubt can lead to a lopsided friendship. This, too, can destroy a marriage as fast as a friendship. Compatibility of spirit is an important quality of mutuality.
When we know God and when we have experienced the call of Christ to discipleship we must take care about a partner who is separated from God. Passion, affection, laughter, physical attraction may all be important qualities but there is a lasting quality not to overlook. It is the glue the binds the compatibility towards its destination. It is a passion for knowing God and the joy of discovering that you are on a mutual journey of spiritual awakening.
It is in the spiritual community that we can find such relationships that better prepare us for being the disciples we are called to become.