First Soul Friend
"Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where our secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is of all our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell."
Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets
Kenneth Leech’s book, Soul Friend, an Invitation to Spiritual Direction, was the first book I read on spiritual direction over thirty years ago. Something was calling me to be more connected with other spiritual friends. I was going to a counselor who was helping me deal with life on life’s terms, but somehow, I instinctively knew I needed a friend whom I knew was caring for my soul, concentrating on helping me see the God of my understanding working in my life. I had learned in my medical practice the importance of sharing ideas and consulting with others. I learned from many mistakes that when I tried to make decisions without getting input from others, I so often went down the wrong path, made the wrong diagnosis.
How do you find someone you can trust with your soul? Spiritual directors were rare breeds at that time. It had to be someone I trusted with my fears and secrets. I knew I shared my life with my family members, but my direction or path to God always affected them directly or indirectly. I knew I needed to talk or be with someone who was not explicitly affected by the insights we might have. After some time, I did find another friend in a book group. She as well was seeking a soul mate, a spiritual friend. We read together Leech’s book. I know Leech had so much to teach us, but this is the message we decided to concentrate on. We met once a week. We each told what was going on in our life, our secret worries, our concerns, our fears, where we thought God might be working in our life. We each talked without interruption or interpretation. There was no advice to the other or empathy or sympathy. We just listened. Then we prayed for each other, specifically for each other’s concerns. I am sure Leech would have wanted us to do more, but that was a start for both of us. In essence we were connected to God by telling our secrets to someone else. In doing so these secrets lost their power over us and somehow, we entered the secret place inside of us where God was dwelling. It was a start. I learned a little about how the power of secrets and fears can seal us off from God. We no longer meet but we are still friends and still trust each other and give thanks for this time when our journeys brought us together and started both of us on a new journey. This kind of a friend is invaluable, a gift from God. If you are looking for one, keep it in your prayers, and let us know your experience with a treasured spiritual friend.