Recently, I was surprised to be chatting with a guy I had not seen in nearly two decades. He talked about the time twenty years ago when I had known him as a kind of newly reformed gang member. Often he would show up for meetings wearing a tank top, even in winter, showing off his muscles and his tattoos. What was unusual was not just his physical appearance. What was unusual was that he was beginning to live out a ‘call from God’ and was testing out that call, in part, through participation in retreat programs given by the Ignatian Spirituality Project.
At the same time I knew this gentleman, I was working with several other men experiencing the desire to recover from homelessness and addiction. One of them, after an ISP retreat experience, felt a similar ‘call from God’ to do whatever he could to come closer to God and let God bring him to full recovery. He was convinced that he would not find complete recovery from homelessness and addiction except in and through and with God. He wanted a companion who understood the challenge, someone with whom he could talk about his hopes and desires for his life. He wanted to deepen his trust in God. To help him do so, he was seeking a ‘spiritual companion in recovery.’
I introduced these two men to one another. They met frequently and regularly to talk and pray together as spiritual companions in recovery. They shared deeply, especially encouraging one another to entrust their lives to God, practicing “I can’t, God can, I let God.’
When connecting with a spiritual companion in recovery, faith becomes a verb, not merely a noun. Faith becomes an action: faith that a power greater than myself will lead me. Vulnerability emerges and trust grows; one relies on God’s loving kindness and tender mercy. These two men found all this to be true.
And then, after two years, because of circumstances, they had to move away from the area; they said good-bye to one another with gratitude. At this point in time, each was trusting in God as never before–with a new-found peace and energy for service of others.
Today, each of these men maintains a practice of recovery. Both are employed in full- time leadership positions where they empower others to claim the gift of their life.
In Advent, we too are invited to deepen our human relationships in order to foster a deeper relationship with God. How might we answer this invitation?
For further reflection: Who are some spiritual companions that have accompanied me along my path? How have they shown me “faith in action”?