“You and I are here and I hope that Christ is between us as a third. Yes most beloved open your heart now and pour whatever you please into the ears of a friend. Gratefully, let us welcome the time, place and leisure”
Aelred of Rivaulx, Spiritual Friendship.
What is Spiritual Friendship?
It is a bond between souls – one that cannot be created or induced but is the very knitting together by our Creator from whom all love flows. This is a friendship that mirrors the love that God has for each of us, a give and take of our very selves, without thought of risk or gain. It is an opening of our hearts to one another, willing to share difficult truths and sorrows as well as joys. Challenging us to grow, it inspires us to be more like Christ in crossing into one another’s lives through and for the sheer reason of love.
In Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters we are welcomed into the lives of Amy Andrews and Jessica Mesman Griffith. Two women from very different backgrounds each felt led to take a creative writing class that would truly be the beginning of an incredible spiritual friendship. While initially there would be a concealment of their own admittance to and searching for faith, their paths with one another would lead to a true discovery of self. Through letter writing they spanned the distance apart, and like Ruth and Naomi realized that they indeed could walk this path together.
For Jessica it was the faith of her childhood which “brought religion to life in a way that theology never could” , through a visible lived faith experience that seemed to permeate everything. Battling doubts as to Amy’s choosing of her as Confirmation sponsor, Jessica was hopeful that she could help guide Amy into the faith in her own return as well. Meanwhile, continually unfolding the layers of grief of her mother’s death and father’s alienation, Jessica sought to understand her own new vocation as mother.
For Amy, her path from a secular upbringing to conversion was more of a “long crescendo”, an accumulation of experience that spoke to this decision that felt called to make to become a Catholic. Approaching faith initially from a position of trying to prove its truth, she conceded that there was in fact a “leap of faith” beyond reason that was required. When Amy encountered the initial joy of pregnancy to the experience of delivering Claire as stillborn their spiritual friendship was what carried Amy through this difficult time.
Through the sharing of these daily struggles, small and large, and their profound moments of deep questioning they experienced a connection that went beyond a simple exchange of friendship. They had found the freedom and friendship of faith and love that bound them together like Ruth and Naomi. Unraveling what it is to have faith, in the midst of grief and through the ups and downs of life, buoyed by the God given companionship in one another.
Have you experienced a friendship like this? Is there someone in your life whom you feel privileged to carry their burdens as well as their joys? If so, take a moment today to say “Thank you” to God for this priceless gift of love.