In the past fourteen articles, I have reflected on my life journey, particularly my spiritual journey, recalling what were for me deeply significant experiences and encounters with people. In this final article, I would like to speak about my reasons for intentionally sharing such personal experiences with you.
One scene from the gospels comes to mind. It is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and what happened to them when they realized that the person journeying with them was none other than Jesus himself. They immediately returned to Jerusalem. At the moment they arrived, the other disciples were discussing the appearance of the risen Lord to Peter. The two disciples shared about their own experience on the road and how they happened to have their eyes opened to realize that it was Jesus who had been walking with them. The account in Luke goes on to say that just at that point in the story, Jesus appeared in their midst. (Luke 24:33-36)
On our life journey, each of us has had the experience of having our eyes opened to the Lord Jesus who walks with us. Just as each of us have had a unique life journey, our personal encounter with the living Christ is unique as well. It has been my hope that as you read about experiences in my personal life journey, some of you may be inspired to write your own story of deeply meaningful experiences in your own lives and how you have been met by the Lord Jesus in them. And it is my prayer that as we share our personal experiences with one another, the Lord Jesus will come and stand in our midst just as he did 2000 years ago.
Another reason for writing came from a word of encouragement in Henri Nouwen’s book, Here and Now where he speaks of the great paradox of the spiritual life, ‘that the most personal is the most universal, that the most intimate is most communal.’ (p. 23)
In the course of writing these articles, I have repeated two things. The first is fellowship with a spiritual companion or a heart-friend, in other words, how important and wonderful friendship is. The spiritual life is centered in a personal relationship with the Triune God. When I speak of personal, I do not mean an isolated individualistic relationship. Since the Triune God lives in the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when we receive spiritual life in our relationship with God, we also come alive in our relationships with friends. And in our relationships with our friends, we come to know God more intimately.
Over the past several years, my relationships with my soul-friends have given me some of the most wonderful experiences of my life. That new friends are being continually added to this fellowship never ceases to astonish me. Recently I have been offering retreats for pastors, evangelists and their spouses that I call ‘Seminars on Pastoral Ministry and Spirituality.’ These seminars grew out of a wonderful heart-friend relationship with Rev. Keikichi Sakano, a real gift from the Lord.
The second thing that I have written about repeatedly in these articles is the importance of reflecting on our own life journey and our faith journey. As I wrote in the first article, without this reflection it is very difficult to discover the meaning or significance of various events and experiences in our lives. On the other hand, as we take time to pause and reflect and meditate, we become increasingly able to see the hand of the Lord who walks with us and guides us.
Recently the idea of Spiritual Direction has been expressed rather by Spiritual Accompaniment. Since the concept we are trying to express is that we become spiritual companions to one another that our eyes may be opened to the Lord who walks with us, I believe it is a better way of expressing this concept to say Spiritual Accompaniment. In this spiritual accompaniment, we offer help to one another to deepen our meditation on our life journey and on our daily lives. Along with meditation on our lives, there is another very important dimension of meditation and that is meditation on the Word of God.
These days, words like meditation have become rather a trademark for cults and new age religions, but we need both a thoughtful study of God’s Word in order to understand it and also a deep meditation on the Word of God. Meditation on the Word of God is indispensable if we want our meditation on our own lives to deepen. To borrow an expression from Dr. Hans Burki, ‘In the meditation of God’s Word, the story of the Bible encounters the story of our lives.’
As you meditate on the Word of God and on your lives, may the Lord who is your soul’s best friend provide you with good companions on your faith journey.
‘Jesus himself drew near and went with them.’ Luke 24:15