Friday, January 21, 2011

Lean on and be a "Soul Friend"


Bill Withers knew the importance of having a being a good friend. In his familiar song, "Lean on me", he captures the holistic human need we all have for loving, supportive and caring relationships with others. The lyrics from this 1972 release still have some wisdom for us today.


Sometime in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise we know that there's
Always tomorrow

Lean on me when you're not strong and
I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long till I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride if I have things
You need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
that you won't let show

Just call on me brother when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road, I'll share your load
if you just call me

Just call me when you need a friend
Just call me when you need a friend...


Truth be told, we all need friends. No matter our age, having support can make all the difference in the world to a person. In human development, there are forty assets (According to the Search Institute - www.search-institute.org)—known as Developmental Assets—that help young children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible adults. The first six of these assets all revolve around the area of support. Family Support, Positive Family Communication, Other Adult Relationships, Caring Neighborhood, Caring School Climate, Parent Involvement in Schooling are just a start to what is needed for healthy human development, but this goes to show all the more that people need each other. There is more evidence of this fact from another source that may surprise you. In the bible, an important example of human need for support and community is found in Luke 3: Jesus baptism.

"21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Image of Jesus Baptism by He Qi found at blog Eternal Echoes.

Jesus did not baptize himself. This action was one that had to occur in the midst of community. This fact makes me think that in addition to the blessing of baptism, that God is trying to tell us something important. The Christian life is not one we are to live alone. We need each other. If Jesus, God's son, needed help from others to grow in his spiritual life and calling - don't we need connection to community too?

In the pace of life, it can be challenging to establish, maintain and keep friendships and means of support in a state of health; but without supportive relationships the pace and demands of life can become unbearable. This is where connecting friendship and support to the spiritual life can become powerful catalyst for growth.

The Celtic Christian community, developed by St. Patrick, and entourage of priests, seminarians and others in A.D. 432 (The Celtic way of Evangelism pg. 15), established a way of providing both peer and spiritual support for the members of their community. Along with voluntary solitary space for devotions, spending time with a small group for devotions, sharing common life and work, and gaining experience in ministry and witness; this community would partner you with an "Anamchara" or soul friend. This person was not a superior, but a peer that helped, supported, and assisted you on the path of Christian discipleship.(TCWOE,pg. 48)

Over the years, I've had lots of friends, but few soul friends. However, when I look to the times I was in a relationship with a peer soul friend, I recall times of honest conversation over the challenges of the faith life, prayers that were shared over the small a big things in life, and a depth in my own understanding and remembrance of scripture through our discussions.

Between the facts of the Search institute, Bill Withers song lyrics, the sense of community fostered by the Celtic Christians, and Jesus own need for community as he officially started his ministry; I'm convinced that today we all need a soul friend too.

As a part of the ministry here at First Lutheran Church, I feel a strong leading that all our members would benefit from a soul friend and many of the life applications of the Celtic Christians. So, as we step into 2011, lets consider together how we can establish supportive relationship to everyone in and touched by our community. Through small groups, soul-friend relationships, participation in ministry, time for personal devotions and sharing common life; our community can become the embodiment of the song "Lean on Me"; knowing that Jesus ultimately is supporting us all too.

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road, I'll share your load
if you just call me

Just call me when you need a friend
I'll be a friend...