There has been tremendous blessing to me in coming into the world of spiritual direction at such a young age. (I was 27 when I began working full time as a spiritual director). One aspect for which I am most grateful at the moment is the friendships I have forged with people much older than myself.
I am struck in recent days by the compassion of these older friends of mine. They have encountered the challenges I am now facing in one guise or another, and they are able to affirm my journey. I trust their compassion because I know it borne of brutal experience.
There is no sugar coating here, no guarantee of a happy outcome. Rather a willingness to walk alongside. The offer of a hand, to steady over the rocky terrain.
I watched Shadowlands again a few nights ago. I was struck at the end of the film CS Lewis’s character says ‘as a boy I chose safety, as a man I chose suffering’. It is not to say that he went looking for suffering, but rather when the painful experience emerged he was willing to walk through it as a man, where as a boy he had shied away. It struck me as a worthy test of adulthood.
And yet, even as I write that, I wonder if adulthood is not a myth.
I am deeply grateful to these wise old friends of mine. They all have had the courage to walk through the purging fire of suffering and have lived to the tale. But that is not the story they tell. The story they choose to speak of is of the present challenges they face. In so doing they help me to be present to my own story, and my own challenges.
Each life stage has its own challenges. Each must be faced with whatever resources we can manage to muster at the time.
All we can do at any stage of life is to commit to showing up, to paying attention. Beyond that there seems to be a strong archetypal dynamic which we can only avoid by choosing paralysis.
For my part, I thank my elder companions. They give me the courage to choose to be present. Beyond that I trust in the grace of God.