One of the best places to begin is with admitting, maybe we could call it a form of confession. I don’t know. I’m lost. I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m confused. I think God hates me. I’m wrong. I made a mistake. (Anything you might add from your own experience).
These are things we don’t like to admit. Maybe confession is about admitting those things that make us feel vulnerable and unsafe. If we are asking to admit, we need to create a place that is safe to do so. I think too often, we don’t find places of worship this safe place. We might feel like we’re not “good enough” or that we don’t belong, we don’t fit in, or that we might be told we’re “wrong” (shame), or that we’re doing it “wrong” (guilt), or that we “should (blank)”. We maybe have been hurt and let down in the past. Maybe these things are true and maybe these are stories we make up, assumptions we have, or maybe fears that we have.
It’s more important than ever, and maybe it just feel more important than ever because we’re living it now, to be with one another and accept one another and create safe havens for one another.
So maybe our charge is to be sure that we are creating a place where people can come and be lost, scared, confused, lonely, wrong, seeking, questing…most importantly without anyone judging their process or trying to change them. Simply…being with one another on the journey and though, or in, the process. Ministering to one another is a lot more about listening than having those brilliant answers that always seem to come out really well on TV and not so well out our own mouths (those well scripted perfect ministering words that we then compare ourselves to).
Just be. Just listen. Just accept. Just admit. Be vulnerable. Listen to vulnerability. Listen with vulnerability.
We need friends. And not just any friends. Soul friends. Maybe that’s some of what places of faith are about: places where Soul Friends can come together and minister and listen and be present with one another. Where we can help each other practice: Love. A few weeks ago, in Part One, we talked about how it’s not so much about being right about Jesus and the Bible, but the practice of being like Jesus. Practicing Love in the world. And even the practice of being like Jesus may not mean one calls themself a Christian. We’ve all seen some very Christian non-Christians and some very not Christian Christians.
What does it mean to be a Soul Friend? A Soul Friend is someone we can say anything to and that we listen to (and vice versa). Listen might be a key word in this, it’s sometimes so hard to listen. Sometimes because we don’t want to hear and sometimes it’s so we don’t forget that very important thing we want to add. Either way, we lose really hearing and listening. That thought come back. Or it won’t. It doesn’t matter in a Soul Conversation.
Soul Friends and Soul Conversations are when we get below the superficial conversations that might be about the weather, sporting events, what happened yesterday at work, politics, what’s happening in the world, even gossip and criticism. Soul Conversations are deeper and require more real work. Sometimes, they appear out of no where and are amazing, but more often, we need to seek out these conversations and like minded people. Not everyone wants to get below the superficial chatting of life (which is also an Art to be done well and with love).
We might use the readings or reflections from our faith places as our touchstone in conversing with Soul Friends. We might use the Bible or other texts, poems, readings as our touchstone. We might use what happened at work or the world, or what happened in the coffee shop or what happened in the garden as our touchstone. We might wander and weave through all of it or nothing. Sometimes, there’s nothing to talk about when we’re with Soul Friends.
Life, the Bible, stories (in all their forms: life, novels, TV, myths, legends, sacred texts, anything and everything) is complex and often contradictory. It can be easy to seek simple answers. But, as we know, the more we know the less we know, and that’s where the Mystery begins…or continues. It’s complex, we can get rigid and find only what we want to see or we can open ourselves to everything. Soul Friends can help us get comfortable with “not-knowing” and questioning and our own vulnerable stories of successes and failures and everything in between. Trust me, we all have our stories of successes and failures and everything in between and there is a gift in sharing that with others…it makes us feel less alone. Less like that very sad: “it’s just me”.
A good Soul Friend makes us think and sometimes says to us: “Umm…what if it means this instead?” Helps us not to see what we want to see or just what makes us comfortable, but helps us to cultivate our own inner wisdom and discernment. Helps us to see things from a different angle or lens. From the perspective of another person…
Soul Friends are like mirrors. They help us to read and interpret what we’re reading or the stories of our lives. They help us to learn to debate and question. They help us to grow and learn and not to be “right”. To be Questioners on a Quest. They help us to practice love even when we disagree, even when it’s hard. Practice peace when we’re triggered. They help us to see our own blind spots and see life through someone else’s lens and experiences and loves and dislikes. To notice what is the same in differences. Soul Friends help us to connect and trust. To be less lonely and more big.
Soul Friends help us cultivate a new (old) practice for a Peaceful World. How to have a civil conversation…when you disagree. Maybe that’s the gift of the contradictory passages that are made even more complex when we each bring our own stories into the mix. How do we have a civil discord when someone asks us to question something that we have always held to as true or right or correct…when someone asks us to think another way that might be…scary? And it’s not that we are wrong or they are wrong, or their right and we’re not, but that we can see things differently and it’s ok.
Maybe they change our minds. Maybe we change theirs. Maybe we go away from one another still believing the same, but with a better understanding of another person’s viewpoint or vision of the story and life. The Mystery.
We know we’ve found a good Soul Friend (Soul Place), when it’s someone that we can more easily say things like: I’m lost. I’m confused. I’m angry. I don’t understand. I was taught that was wrong and it still hurts. I was totally wrong myself. The willingness to change. The willingness to forgive.
Gentleness. Soul Friends are gentle, even when they are not. That’s Love.
The key is to remember that the book may be different, the how-to may be different, the story may be different, the ritual may be different, the theology may be different, but the practice is the same. Love and being a good person in the world. Soul Friends remember that we may have our own “right path”, but our right path is not always another’s right path. But it’s always Love. There are many, many paths of Love. And Love is the stepping stone to Peace and Grace.
Soul Friends help us to learn that what is beneath that is beautiful is more important that the being right. That the Mystery is bigger than we can possible know.