Sunday, October 19, 2008

Holy Friendships

As many of you know, I spent seven years at Duke Divinity School - three as a student and four years as the Director of Admissions. For seven years, I was taught and shaped by the people who teach and lead Duke Divinity School. One of the voices that continues to instruct me is Greg Jones, the Dean of Duke Divinity School.

Greg talks a lot about the need for holy friendships. He says that everyone needs a holy friend - someone who is willing to point out the sins we have grown to love while naming the gifts we are afraid to claim.

I have many friends who have been willing to do the latter. No doubt, I would have never made it through the rough first couple of years at Mount Vernon Place had I not had the voices from the first church I served still speaking in my heart and mind. The people from First UMC in Hendersonville, NC are the people who continued to affirm my gifts for ministry when I felt anything but affirmed in my early years at Mount Vernon Place (change is hard at every church - but it is particularly hard to change a church that was near death but filled with potential).

Rarely, however, do I find someone who is willing to point out the sins I have grown to love. I have found such a friend, however. We do not see each other often. She is in Ohio and I am in DC. We communicate more on email than we do in person. Still, Laurie has challenged me on my need to succeed - on my willingness to say "yes" to too many things, pushing aside my ability to rest - to take Sabbath - to practice one of the Ten Commandments - and to make my marriage grow.

A few weeks ago, Laurie wrote me an email in response to my blog. I had written on my blog how I was exhausted and stretched but how I had just accepted another responsibility with the Annual Conference. Laurie wrote:

"So what has been so crazy about the last 3 weeks?
And why did you say yes to the Par 213 team? Important work, but another night away from home, away from Craig, away from the congregation ... I'm just asking b/c it's the same thing I ask myself."

She then proceeded to remind me of how the most important covenants I have made are the covenant I made to follow Christ which means practicing the Sabbath and the covenant I made with Craig which requires that I make space for Craig - plenty of space for our relationship to grow and flourish.

As a result of Laurie's words and witness, I have now said "no" a few different times. I have even told the Bishop's Office "no" this week when asked to serve on another committee. I am trying to prioritize my life - to not let the clutter of ministry creep in on what is really important. I am grateful for Laurie's friendship.

Who are your holy friends? How do they hold you accountable?

1 comment:

Paul Maurice Martin said...

My holy and unholy friends are pretty much absent. It's a well-known phenomenon in the realm of protracted illness. When I was healthy I noticed it happen to others, even sick children, when I worked at a hospital.