You are on page 1of 22

R UTH HA L E Y B A RTON

A UT HOR OF S A CR E D R HY T HMS
LI F E TOGETHER
I N CHRI S T
E X P E R I E NCI NG TR A NS F OR MATI ON
I N COMMUNI TY
LI FE TOGETHER
I N CHRI ST
EXPERI ENCI NG TRANSFORMATI ON
I N COMMUNI TY
RUTH HALEY BARTON
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 3 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
InterVarsity Press
P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
ivpress.com
email@ivpress.com
©2014 by Ruth Haley Barton
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from
InterVarsity Press.
InterVarsity Press
¹
is the book-publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA
¹
, a movement of
students and faculty active on campus at hundreds of universities, colleges and schools of nursing in the United
States of America, and a member movement of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. For
information about local and regional activities, visit intervarsity.org.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in
the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
While any stories in this book are true, some names and identifying information may have been changed to
protect the privacy of individuals.
Cover design: Cindy Kiple
Interior design: Beth McGill
Images: Te Road to Emmaus by Daniel Bonnell
ISBN 978-0-8308-4602-3 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-8308-9638-7 (digital)
Printed in the United States of America ♾
As a member of the Green Press Initiative, InterVarsity Press is committed to protecting
the environment and to the responsible use of natural resources. To learn more, visit
greenpressinitiative.org.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Barton, R. Ruth, 1960-
Life together in Christ / Ruth Haley Barton.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-0-8308-3586-7 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. Spiritual formation. 2. Communities—Religious
aspects—Christianity. I. Title.
BV4511.B27 2014
248.4—dc23
2014033346
P 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Y 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 4 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
CONTENTS
!ntroduction: An Inconvenient Truth / µ
Chapter 1: 8ctwccn thc Now and thc Not Yct / +µ
Choosing to Walk Together
Chapter 2: And Jcsus Himscll Camc Ncar / ¸¡
Welcoming the Stranger
Chapter 3: Tcy Stood Still Looking Sad / ¡¸
Choosing to Listen Rather than Fix
Chapter 4: 8ut Vc Had Hopcd . . . / 6µ
Gathering on the Basis of Shared Desire
Chapter 5: Somc Vomcn ol Òur Group Astoundcd Us / 8¸
Men and Women in Community
Chapter 6: Vas !t Not Ncccssary Tat
thc Mcssiah Should Suffcr: / +o+
The Nature of the Spiritual Journey
Chapter 7: Hc ¡xplaincd thc Scripturcs to Tcm / ++¸
Finding Our Story in His Story
Chapter 8: Vcrc Not Òur Hcarts 8urning Vithin Us: / +¸+
Discerning the Presence of Christ
Chapter 9: Tcn Tcy Told Vhat Had
Happcncd on thc Road / +¡µ
You Are Witnesses of These Things
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 7 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
Gratitudcs / +¡µ
Appcndix A: 8iblical Pcrspcctivcs on
Spiritual Translormation in Community / +6+
Appcndix 8: Practicing Stability / +6¡
Notcs / +6µ
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 8 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
1
THEY STOOD STILL
LOOKING SAD
Choosing to Listen Rather Than Fix
Tey stood still, looking sad. Ten one of them, whose name
was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger
in Jerusalem who does not know the things that
have taken place there in these days?”
He asked them, “What things?”
L :  -
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 53 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
54 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
Tis particular momcnt on thc ¡mmaus Road is onc that causcs
mc to lall in lovc with Jcsus all ovcr again. You’vc gotta lovc a man
(or a woman) who asks a good qucstion, waits paticntly lor you to
sort through your thoughts and cmotions, and thcn asks a lollow
up qucstion that finally hclps you to say what you nccd to say.
Spiritual convcrsation just docsn’t gct any bcttcr than that!
Jcsus modcls lor us hcrc anothcr important clcmcnt ol trans
lorming community—thc ability to simply listcn and be with what
is without having to fix, givc advicc or problcm solvc. Hc sccmcd
to know that what thcsc two disoricntcd disciplcs nccdcd, first ol
all, was to tcll thc story ol what had happcncd and how it affcctcd
thcm in thcir own words. ¡vcn though Jcsus dcfinitcly would havc
had his own pcrspcctivc, hc didn’t rush in and offcr that too quickly.
Hc rcspcctcd thc lact that thcir cxpcricncc ol thcsc cvcnts, thc
mcanings thcy wcrc placing on it all and thc qucstions thcy wcrc
asking in rcsponsc wcrc thcir own. Vhat thcy nccdcd was somconc
who would simply listcn and bc prcscnt to thcm in all thcir pain
and unccrtainty.
Yct cvcn whcn wc arc graciously givcn such an opportunity to
spcak, it is not always casy to talk about traumatic pcrsonal
cvcnts. Clcopas and thc unnamcd disciplc strugglcd to comc up
with thc words that would adcquatcly cxprcss what thcy wcrc
cxpcricncing, but thcy couldn’t, so thcy finally just gavc up and
gavc in to thcir sadncss.
Havc you cvcr bccn in a situation whcrc what you wcrc going
through was so awlul or so wondcrlul you couldn’t find words to
dcscribc it: Vcrc you blcsscd to bc around pcoplc who kncw how to
“stand still, looking sad” with you, or did you havc to cndurc inanc
commcnts that misscd thc point or advicc that addcd insult to injury:
!l you’rc thc listcncr in a momcnt likc this, onc ol thc grcatcst
tcmptations is to rush in and fill up thc cmptincss with words—
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 54 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
They Stood Still Looking Sad 55
ol advicc (“Vhat rcally hclpcd mc whcn ! lost my job was . . .”),
wcllmcaning attcmpts at comlort (“! know cxactly how you
lccl”), or fillcr (“!’m surc God has a plan”). Such words arc in
tcndcd mostly to rclicvc thc awkwardncss wc oursclvcs arc lccling,
thcy arc rarcly what thc pcrson who is in thc throcs ol pain or
uphcaval rcally nccds. Vhy do wc do this: ! supposc thc obvious
answcr is that wc rcally do want to hclp. !t is difficult to witncss
anothcr pcrson’s pain, and il wc havc any goodncss in our hcart
at all, wc want to somchow allcviatc it or at lcast bring somc sort
ol mcaning and comlort.
Tc dark sidc ol thcsc good intcntions, howcvcr, is that wc might
also havc a bit ol a mcssiah complcx. Òn somc lcvcl, wc might
rclish thc opportunity to bc thc savior ol thc world, or at lcast thc
savior ol thc pcrson who is sitting in pain right in lront ol us. Vc
would likc to bc thc onc who has thc word that brings nccdcd
comlort or thc advicc that solvcs thc problcm. Somc ol us arc ac
tually addictcd to “hclping” bccausc it makc us lccl bcttcr about
oursclvcs. Òr wc arc so lundamcntally sclllocuscd that wc rcally
cannot lct somconc clsc’s cxpcricncc bc thcir own without somchow
making it about us—our own story, what wc think wc know, what
wc lccl wc can contributc to thcir situation.
THE POWER OF PRESENCE
Translorming community bcgins as wc choosc to walk togcthcr,
trusting that Jcsus is in our midst as wc talk and sharc about “all
thcsc things that had happcncd.” 8ut it docsn’t cnd thcrc. Trans
lorming community continucs to unlold and dccpcn among us as
wc ask good qucstions and lcarn how to stand still and wait with
onc anothcr in thc midst ol shattcrcd hopcs and drcams and thc
grcat unfixablcs ol lilc. Tcrc is a quality ol listcning and bcing
togcthcr with Jcsus in thc stuff ol our livcs that can opcn us to lrcsh
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 55 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
56 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
pcrspcctivcs and truc spiritual insight, or at thc vcry lcast an ability
to lct go and lcan in to thc situation just as it is.
! rcmcmbcr onc cxpcricncc with our youngcst daughtcr, Halcy,
that continucs to rcmind mc ol thc powcr ol this kind ol listcning
and bcing with. !t was Christmas Ðay, and shc was tcn ycars old.
Vc had invitcd somc dcar lamily lricnds to join us lor Christmas
dinncr, and cvcryonc was looking lorward to a wondcrlul day to
gcthcr. Tc only problcm was that Halcy had contractcd pncu
monia, and our lricnds had twins who had bccn born prcmaturcly
and could not risk bcing cxposcd to an inlcction. For scvcral days
lcading up to Christmas, wc watchcd and hopcd and praycd that
Halcy would gct bcttcr, but it was not mcant to bc. Òur plans had
to bc cancclcd, and Halcy was dcvastatcd, shc had bccn looking
lorward to thc day so much, and shc also lclt rcsponsiblc lor “ru
ining cvcryonc’s Christmas.”
Altcr thc final dccision was madc, shc ran up to hcr room crying.
! lollowcd hcr, dcspcratcly wanting to bc ablc to fix things somchow
or makc it all bcttcr—as all parcnts long to do whcn thcir childrcn
arc hurting. 8ut thcrc was nothing that would allcviatc this pain,
it could only bc cndurcd. And all ! could do was sit thcrc with hcr
on thc bcd, stroking hcr hair as shc cricd into my lap. Vc staycd
likc that lor a whilc, and thcn ! did havc to go downstairs and work
on Christmas dinncr, trusting God to do somcthing lor hcr that !
could not do. About a hall an hour latcr shc camc downstairs and
lound mc in thc kitchcn, wrappcd hcr arms around my waist and
said, “Tanks, Mom, lor sitting with mc. ! lccl bcttcr now.”
!t was that simplc and that hard. Vhat most nccdcd to bc
donc in hcr hcart only God could do. ! lclt likc ! hadn’t donc
anything. 8ut it turncd out that thc simplc prcscncc ol anothcr
human bcing who could bc with hcr in thc pain was part ol how
God ministcrcd to hcr.
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 56 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
They Stood Still Looking Sad 57
THE SERVICE OF LISTENING
Tc ¡mmaus Road narrativc invitcs us to considcr thc practicc ol
Christlikc listcning as onc aspcct ol our commitmcnt to trans
lorming community. 8onhocffcr points out,
Tc first scrvicc onc owcs to othcrs in thc lcllowship consists
in listcning to thcm. . . . !t is God’s lovc to us that Hc not only
givcs us His Vord but also lcnds us His car. . . . Christians so
oltcn think thcy must always contributc somcthing whcn
thcy arc in thc company ol othcrs, that this is thc onc scrvicc
thcy havc to rcndcr. Tcy lorgct that listcning can bc a grcatcr
scrvicc than spcaking.
1
Vhilc thc practicc ol listcning might sccm a littlc “solt” and ill
dcfincd whcn comparcd to morc traditional small group prac
ticcs such as 8iblc study, praycr and scrvicc, it hclps to rcmcmbcr
that thc contcxt lor 8onhocffcr’s obscrvation was Christian
brothcrs suffcring togcthcr in a Gcrman conccntration camp.
Clcarly this was a placc whcrc casy answcrs and supcrficial scn
timcntality would not do, but “thc grcatcr scrvicc” ol truc lis
tcning was most highly valucd. 8onhocffcr drivcs thc point
homc cvcn lurthcr:
For Personal Reflection
Vhcn havc you cxpcricnccd somcthing so dccp that you nccdcd
somconc to just bc prcscnt with you rathcr than rushing in to try
to fix, problcm solvc, givc advicc: Ðid you havc pcoplc who wcrc
ablc to do that: Vhat did that mcan to you: Vhat diffcrcncc
did it makc: Havc you cvcr had an cxpcricncc with somconc
who rcally was not ablc to do that: How did that affcct you:
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 57 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
58 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
Hc who can no longcr listcn to his brothcr will soon bc no longcr
listcning to God cithcr, hc will bc doing nothing but prattlc in
thc prcscncc ol God, too. . . . Ònc who cannot listcn long and
paticntly will prcscntly bc talking bcsidc thc point and bc ncvcr
rcally spcaking to othcrs, albcit hc bc not conscious ol it.
2
PRESENT TO GOD ON BEHALF OF OTHERS
Translorming community involvcs cultivating a kind ol spiritual
companionship that is vcry diffcrcnt lrom what wc usually cxpc
ricncc. !t involvcs bcing prcscnt to thc pcrson wc arc listcning to,
ycs, but cvcn morc importantly being present to God on the other’s
behalf. Vc arc listcning lor what God’s dcsirc or guidancc lor that
pcrson might bc, not what our bcst advicc might bc or how wc can
bc most hclplul. Furthcrmorc, wc arc willing to bc madc awarc ol
what is going on within oursclvcs so that our own inncr urgcs (to
fix, problcm solvc, allcviatc discomlort) don’t gct in thc way ol what
God wants to do in thc momcnt.
Tis quality ol prcscncc can also bc
dcscribcd as an intercessory prayer stance.
Tc problcm is that many ol us havc
cxpcricnccd intcrccssion to bc so cffort
lul and cxhausting that thc word itscll
scarcs us away. Howcvcr, thc Scripturcs assurc us that it is thc
Holy Spirit who docs thc rcal work anyway—continually intcr
ccding lor thc saints (that would bc us!) with groans too dccp lor
For Personal Reflection
How do you rcspond to thc idca that “listcning can bc a grcatcr
scrvicc than spcaking”: How oltcn do you scrvc othcrs in this way:
I look at God, I look at you,
and I keep looking at God.
Julian of Norwich
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 58 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
They Stood Still Looking Sad 59
words (Romans ·:a6). Tus spiritual companionship can bc undcr
stood as praycrlul listcning in which wc rcmain quict cnough to
listcn lor thc praycr ol thc Holy Spirit that is alrcady bcing praycd
lor that pcrson bclorc thc thronc ol gracc. Vc can ask God to givc
us somc scnsc ol what thc Holy Spirit is alrcady praying so wc can
participatc in that praycr in whatcvcr way God lcads.
Vhcn askcd by a lricnd how shc praycd lor othcrs, Julian ol
Norwich dcscribcd such praycrlul companionship this way: “! look
at God, ! look at you, and ! kccp looking at God.” Vhat Julian is
dcscribing is a vcry lrccing way to listcn and bc prcscnt to othcrs.
“Looking at God” (or Jcsus) spcaks to thc idca that cvcn bclorc ! start
listcning to anothcr pcrson, ! can acknowlcdgc thc rcality that both
ol us arc in God’s prcscncc. ! can pray that ! will bc scnsitizcd to
God’s purposcs in this pcrson’s lilc and in our convcrsation rathcr
than bcing swaycd by my own agcnda. Tcn as ! “look at you” and
listcn to you, ! am not sccing you or cxpcricncing our intcraction
simply in human tcrms. ! am “listcning through” to scnsc God’s hcart
and God’s praycr lor you so that ! can join God in that praycr. ! am
awarc ol myscll and thc othcr in God’s prcscncc, dcsiring only to bc
rcsponsivc to whatcvcr God is doing in thc momcnt.
8cing awarc ol myscll in God’s prcscncc mcans that ! am also
willing to bc madc conscious ol my own inncr dynamics, so ! can
bc wisc and rclusc to allow anything that is going on within mc to
gct in thc way ol what God might bc doing. !t mcans ! am willing
to sct asidc anything that might kccp mc lrom bcing lully prcscnt
to God on thc othcr’s bchall. So lor instancc, il somconc is sharing
somcthing wondcrlul that is going on in his or hcr lilc—a pro
motion, an uncxpcctcd opportunity, somc cxpcricncc that is lull ol
joy and satislaction—! might noticc that it makcs mc lccl a littlc
jcalous or compctitivc, and ! am ablc to ask God to hclp mc sct
asidc lcclings ol jcalousy in ordcr to cclcbratc what God is doing.
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 59 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
60 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
Òr pcrhaps somconc is sharing a lilc cxpcricncc that is similar to
somcthing ! havc cxpcricnccd, and ! bccomc awarc that ! run thc risk
ol projccting my own story and my own lcclings onto thcm. Vhcn,
by God’s gracc, ! am awarc ol my own inncr tcndcncics, ! can ask God
to hclp mc sct asidc my projcctions in ordcr to bc lully prcscnt to what
that pcrson is cxpcricncing and what God might bc saying to thcm.
Tis might bc vcry diffcrcnt lrom how ! would cxpcricncc it or what
God would say to mc in a similar situation. As ! cultivatc such scll
awarcncss, ! might bccomc awarc ol how uncomlortablc ! am with
tcars, strong cmotions or complicatcd lilc situations and can choosc
to rcsist thc urgc to say somcthing—anything!—in ordcr to allcviatc
that discomlort. ! might cvcn bccomc awarc ol how ! usc humor to
avoid bcing prcscnt with myscll and othcrs in thc midst ol thc grcat
unfixablcs ol lilc.
“Looking at God again” mcans that oncc ! havc listcncd to thc
othcr pcrson, ! don’t havc to rush in with my own thoughts and
words. Just as Jcsus did with thc disciplcs on thc ¡mmaus Road, !
can bc still with that pcrson and allow my silcncc to cxprcss rcv
crcnt attcntion to what thcy havc just sharcd. As ! am prcscnt to
God on thc othcr’s bchall, God may givc a word to spcak, a praycr
to pray, a loving act to offcr—or hc may not. !t could bc that thcrc
arc no words and wc arc guidcd to bc silcnt with thc othcr, allowing
thc Holy Spirit to pray with and lor us as wc arc quictly togcthcr.
As you can scc, this is vcry diffcrcnt lrom thc problcm solving,
advicc giving and attcmpts at bringing human comlort that oltcn
happcn whcn Christian pcoplc gct togcthcr. Tis kind ol listcning
crcatcs and protccts a spacc bctwccn us that is hospitablc to thc
soul—a placc whcrc it bccomcs salc cnough to spcak ol our hopcs
and drcams, our longings and dcsircs. !n his book A Hidden
Wholeness, Parkcr Palmcr sharcs about a timc whcn hc was going
through dcprcssion. Hc says, “Vhcn ! wcnt into a dcadly darkncss
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 60 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
They Stood Still Looking Sad 61
that ! had to walk alonc, thc darkncss callcd clinical dcprcssion, !
took comlort and drcw strcngth lrom thosc lcw pcoplc who ncithcr
flcd lrom mc nor tricd to savc mc but wcrc simply prcscnt to mc.”
3
Palmcr’s commcnts highlight onc ol thc grcat paradoxcs ol human
cxpcricncc: in thc dccpcst cxpcricnccs ol our livcs—birth, dcath, dc
prcssion, loss, calling, spiritual longing and dcsirc—wc arc pro
loundly alonc. And yct thcrc is somcthing wc as human bcings can
offcr onc anothcr in thc midst ol that cxistcntial lonclincss—thc gilt
ol our prcscncc. Pcrhaps onc ol thc rcasons “simplc prcscncc” bc
twccn human bcings is so powcrlul is that it crcatcs spacc in which
thc Ultimatc Prcscncc can bc cxpcricnccd as thc \oicc that spcaks,
thc Lovc that comlorts and thc Fullncss that fills all cmptincss.
LISTENING LIKE JESUS
Spiritual lricndship and companionship charactcrizcd by this kind
ol intcrccssory praycr stancc is at thc hcart ol translorming com
munity prcciscly bccausc it crcatcs so much spacc lor listcning to
God in Christ through thc ministry ol thc Holy Spirit. Ònc writcr
dcscribcs this kind ol companionship as “listcning thc othcr into
lrcc spccch.” ! havc pondcrcd this phrasc lor a long timc, lor it
strikcs mc as bcing so truc and yct so hard to comc by in thc circlcs
in which most ol us livc and work and lcllowship. Tc author, Mary
Sharon Moorc, dcfincs lrcc spccch not so much as a human right
but as “an abiding intcrior lrccdom to spcak thc truth ol onc’s bcing
. . . lrccdom to bc hcard and rcccivcd, lrccdom to hcar and rcccivc
God’s calling in my lilc.” Shc distinguishcs lrcc spccch lrom cmpty
spccch (cndlcss, mindlcss chattcr that fills cvcry pockct ol silcncc),
lalsc spccch (which rcvcals a disconncction bctwccn onc’s inncr scll
and outcr rcsponsc and bctrays onc’s inncr truth) and unlrcc spccch
(which rcvcals a scnsc ol victimhood with phrascs likc “! can’t . . . ,”
! should . . . ,” “! ought . . . ,” “! havc no choicc . . .”).
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 61 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
62 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
Convcrscly, lrcc spccch
rcvcals thc authcntic scllinGod. Spiritually lrcc spccch
honors thc complcxity and mystcry ol onc’s scll and circum
stanccs in lilc. !n thc prcscncc ol dccp listcning, thc spiri
tually lrcc pcrson can spcak thc incongrucncc bctwccn onc’s
povcrtics and God’s lovc, onc’s sinlulncss and divinc mcrcy,
onc’s smallhcartcdncss and God’s pcrsistcnt gcncrosity. Frcc
spccch is thc hallmark ol thc spiritually maturc and maturing
pcrson in thc midst ol spiritual paradox. Frcc spccch rcvcals
an intcrior ccntcrcdncss in God and lrccdom to participatc
in thc divinc mystcry as it unlolds in thc coursc ol onc’s lilc.
4
Tis may bc at lcast onc aspcct ol thc kind ol spccch Paul rclcrs to
in ¡phcsians whcn hc says, “Spcaking thc truth in lovc, wc must
grow up in cvcry way” (¡:.¸).
Tis dcscription ol onc who is lrcc to spcak authcntically ol
onc’s cxpcricncc ol God’s prcscncc (or sccming abscncc!) in thc
midst ol onc’s rcallilc situation strikcs mc as an apt rcflcction ol
how Jcsus listcncd thc disciplcs into spccch on thc ¡mmaus
Road. ¡vcn though hc ccrtainly had his pcrspcctivc on thc situ
ation (which hc sharcd lruitlully latcr on), his initial invitation to
thcm was thc complctc lrccdom to tcll it likc it was lor thcm. Tc
goal ol such listcning is to lovingly and humbly cvokc thc lrccdom
ol othcrs, to invitc thcm into thc lrcsh air and light ol unjudgcd
and unalraid cxprcssions ol who thcy arc in God. !ndccd, spir
itual companionship bcgins as togcthcr wc cmbracc basic guidc
lincs lor this particular kind ol listcning rathcr than assuming
that wc cach know how.
Listcning that cvokcs spiritually lrcc spccch in thc othcr
• docs not intcrrupt but rathcr crcatcs spacc lor thc pcrson to
discovcr and cxprcss what thcy nccd to say,
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 62 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
They Stood Still Looking Sad 63
• rclrains lrom using cvaluativc phrascs such as “Òh, that’s good”
or “How tcrriblc!”—rcsponscs that mcrcly communicatc how
wc lccl about what thcy arc sharing, rathcr than giving thcm thc
opportunity to dcscribc in dcpth how thcy arc rcsponding,
• waits on what thc Spirit dcsircs to rcvcal rathcr than rushing in
with onc’s own thoughts and intcrprctations,
• asks qucstions that continually scck to unlock thc dccpcr rcality
ol thc othcr pcrson’s cxpcricncc, gcntly offcring thcm pcrmission
to cxplorc, own and intcgratc thcir cxpcricnccs into thcir spir
itual cxpcricncc—qucstions likc “Vhat was that likc lor you:”
“How did you cxpcricncc God (or not) in thc midst ol that
cxpcricncc:” “Vhat happcns whcn you pray about that:” “Vhat
qucstions docs that raisc lor you:”,
• cncouragcs thc pcrson toward maturc laith—in othcr words, to
discovcr God’s prcscncc and trust God’s purposcs in all aspccts
ol lilc (and thcy thcmsclvcs havc to discovcr it, wc cannot lorcc
this kind ol insight on thcm),
• invitcs thc othcr into crcativc participation in God’s rcdcmptivc
purposcs in thc world: a grcatcr conncctcdncss with what God
is doing in thc world, a clcarcr scnsc ol onc’s placc in it, and a
gcncrous rcsponsc to God’s calling according to thc gilts onc has
bccn givcn.
5
As it turns out, this is cxactly thc kind ol listcning and spcaking thc
disciplcs cxpcricnccd on thc ¡mmaus Road.
A LISTENING PRACTICE
Givcn just how countcrcultural this kind ol listcning is, most ol us
could usc somc kind ol spiritual practicc that hclps us to, wcll,
practicc. Group spiritual dircction is just such a practicc, it providcs
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 63 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
64 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
a structurc with concrctc disciplincs built in that hclp us to bc thc
kind ol spiritual companions wc rcally want to bc. For group spiritual
dircction, pcoplc gathcr on a rcgular basis to assist onc anothcr in
bcing morc attcntivc and rcsponsivc to God’s prcscncc in all ol lilc.
Tcy mcct to rcflcct on thcir spiritual journcys (thc road bctwccn thc
now and thc not yct), to noticc Jcsus’ prcscncc and activity in cach
othcr’s livcs through thc rcal prcscncc ol thc Holy Spirit, and to
support onc anothcr in rcsponding laithlully to that prcscncc.
!n group spiritual dircction it is undcrstood that thc Holy Spirit
is thc truc dircctor and can work and spcak by virtuc ol thc lact
that thc group mcmbcrs cntcr into a sharcd disciplinc that crcatcs
spacc to listcn. Rosc Mary Ðoughcrty has pionccrcd a wclldcfincd
approach to group spiritual dircction, and shc idcntifics thrcc con
ditions as csscntial to thc lilc ol such a group. Mcmbcrs agrcc to
• commit thcmsclvcs to an honcst rclationship with God,
• participatc wholchcartcdly in thc group proccss through
praycrlul listcning and rcsponsc,
• opcn thcir spiritual journcys lor considcration by othcrs.
6
Ònc thing that distinguishcs group spiritual dircction lrom
othcr kinds ol group practicc is thc commitmcnt to a vcry disci
plincd structurc that holds thc group to its sharcd intcnt. Vhilc
scvcral cxccllcnt comprchcnsivc works on thc practicc ol group
spiritual dircction arc availablc,
7
! will offcr a bricl dcscription hcrc
along with somc simplc instructions lor how your group can usc
this disciplinc in wholc or in part. You may want to practicc it as a
way ol cultivating your ability to listcn to onc anothcr as Jcsus
listcncd to thc disciplcs on thc ¡mmaus Road. ¡vcn il you don’t
lccl up to incorporating thc cntirc proccss into your group timcs,
singlc clcmcnts can bc introduccd and practiccd as appropriatc. For
instancc, simply allowing pcoplc to sharc lully without intcrrupting
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 64 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
They Stood Still Looking Sad 65
thcm or introducing somc silcncc into your group timc will bc
highly bcncficial to your ability to companion onc anothcr.
Typically a gathcring lor group spiritual dircction will bcgin with
silcncc—anywhcrc lrom thrcc to cvcn twcnty minutcs. Ðuring this
silcncc participants oricnt thcmsclvcs toward God and scttlc into
thcir sharcd intcnt. Most groups bcncfit lrom having a dcsignatcd
lacilitator or convcncr who simply holds thc proccss in placc by
kccping timc, indicating whcn a pcrson is lrcc to bcgin sharing, and
calling thc group back into silcncc altcr thc “prcscntcr” has finishcd.
! havc shortcncd thc timc lramcs lrom what thc traditional practicc
rccommcnds in ordcr to accommodatc largcr groups or shortcr timc
lramcs, but havc notcd both timcs lor your considcration.
Opening silence (¸¸ minutcs)
You may want to bcgin thc silcncc by lighting a candlc as a symbol
ol thc prcscncc ol thc Holy Spirit, rcminisccnt ol thc tongucs ol
firc in Acts a. Tc convcncr closcs thc silcncc with “Comc, Holy
Spirit,” or somc othcr bricl praycr that acknowlcdgcs thc prcscncc
ol Jcsus through thc Holy Spirit as thc rcal dircctor.
Sharing by one person—the “presenter” (¸, minutcs or .c.¸
minutcs)
Tc prcscntcr sharcs an cxpcricncc, a qucstion or a mattcr lor dis
ccrnmcnt whilc thc group listcns praycrlully through to thc cnd,
without intcrruption.
Silence (¸¡ minutcs)
Tis silcncc makcs spacc lor God, allowing God to cxposc anything
within that would prcvcnt group mcmbcrs lrom bcing prcscnt to
this pcrson and thcir story, and listcning lor thc praycr ol thc Holy
Spirit lor this pcrson (Romans ·:a6a·). ¡ach mcmbcr might also
ask, “God, is thcrc anything you want mc to offcr this pcrson out
ol my praycr:”
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 65 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
66 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
Response from companions (¸¸ minutcs or about .c minutcs)
Tis is a pcriod ol sharing thc qucstions, commcnts or imagcs that
havc comc up in thc silcncc. Tc convcncr may want to rcmind
pcoplc that thcy can trust God’s caring lovc lor thc prcscntcr and
that God’s lovc can bc activc in both silcncc and words. Com
panions can dcmonstratc trust lor thc group proccss by moving
with thc flow ol thc group rathcr than holding on to a pcrsonal
agcnda or any nccd to offcr what has comc to thcm il it lccls in
consistcnt with whcrc thc Spirit is lcading thc group as a wholc.
Ðuring this movc, mcmbcrs should bc carclul to adhcrc to thc
listcning guidclincs dclincatcd carlicr in this chaptcr.
Silence (.a minutcs or about ¸ minutcs)
Tis timc ol silcncc is to givc thc prcscntcr an opportunity to
“gathcr up” what shc or hc has rcccivcd, to listcn lor what sccmcd
to bc lrom thc Holy Spirit, most hclplul or clarilying, ct cctcra, and
what didn’t sccm to fit. Tc prcscntcr may cvcn want to takc a lcw
notcs to capturc what thcy havc rcccivcd in ordcr to bc lully prcscnt
to thc ncxt prcscntcr. Ðuring this timc, thc rcst ol thc group prays
lor thc pcrson who has just prcscntcd, holding thcm in God’s
loving prcscncc with confidcncc that thc Ònc who has bcgun a
good work in thcm will bring it to complction.
At first glancc, this proccss might sccm odd or cvcn awkward,
and it ccrtainly is diffcrcnt lrom thc kinds ol sharing groups most
ol us arc uscd to. Howcvcr, altcr ycars ol training, participating in
and lacilitating such groups, ! would affirm this practicc as onc ol
thc most prolound ways a group can opcn itscll to thc rcal prcscncc
ol thc Holy Spirit, who mcdiatcs thc loving, guiding, companioning
prcscncc ol Jcsus himscll. Surprising things arc sharcd, amazing
insights arc rcccivcd, and wc cxpcricncc oursclvcs to bc part ol
somcthing morc than mcrc human companionship.
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 66 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
They Stood Still Looking Sad 67
ON THE ROAD TOGETHER
!n chaptcr onc you had thc opportunity to sharc whcrc you wcrc
cxpcricncing yourscll to bc on thc road bctwccn thc now and thc
not yct. Tis timc you will havc thc opportunity to sharc this a littlc
bit morc lully and to actually companion onc anothcr in that placc
on your journcy. Choosc a convcncr to watch thc clock.
Following thc proccss outlincd abovc (opcning silcncc~~sharing
by onc pcrson~~silcncc~~rcsponsc lrom companions~~silcncc),
givc cach pcrson thc opportunity to bc thc prcscntcr, sharing whcrc
thcy arc cxpcricncing thcmsclvcs to bc on thc road bctwccn thc
now and thc not yct and how thcy arc cxpcricncing Jcsus with
thcm (or not) on that road. Tc diffcrcncc bctwccn this timc and
last is that this sharing is not primarily lor thc sakc ol discussion
but lor thc sakc ol spiritual companionship.
Tis timc, you will practicc thc first thrcc movcs ol thc group
spiritual dircction proccss, which is a way ol lcarning to simply bc
still and prcscnt to God lor onc anothcr in silcncc altcr cach onc
has sharcd. Tis is a vcry concrctc way ol practicing thc intcrccssory
praycr stancc dcscribcd in this chaptcr.
• “First ! look at God.” 8cgin with two to thrcc minutcs ol
opcning silcncc. Tc lacilitator will closc thc silcncc with a bricl
praycr such as “Comc, Holy Spirit.”
• “Tcn ! look at you.” Tc first pcrson will thcn rcccivc thc un
dividcd attcntion ol thc group as thcy “prcscnt” or sharc in a
littlc morc dctail how and whcrc thcy arc cxpcricncing thcm
sclvcs to bc on thc road bctwccn thc now and thc not yct.
• “Tcn ! look at God again.” Vhcn that pcrson is finishcd
sharing, thc lacilitator will invitc thc group into silcncc by saying
somcthing likc, “Lct’s cntcr into silcncc to bc prcscnt to God on
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 67 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions
68 Livv Tocv:nvv ix Cnvis:
__________’s bchall.”
• Altcr two to thrcc minutcs, thc lacilitator can affirm and bring
closurc to thc prcscntcr’s cxpcricncc by saying, “Tanks bc to God.”
Tc lacilitator can go last with anothcr mcmbcr ol thc group
guiding thc proccss lor thcm.
Ðon’t worry about doing it just right, simply bc willing to try,
trusting God as you lcarn and practicc togcthcr. Listcning to lour
pcoplc is about all human bcings can managc in onc mccting. !l
your group is largcr than lour, usc two mcctings so cvcryonc has
thc opportunity to prcscnt and bc companioncd in this way. You
might want to bcgin by praying this praycr togcthcr.
A PRAYER FOR LISTENING IN COMMUNITY
Lord, wc gathcr togcthcr this day |or night|
as opcnly and as honcstly as wc arc prcscntly ablc.
Fov :nvsv :o:vx:s :n~: ~vv s~xc:ivivb vov
iis:vxixc ix co::uxi:v,
:~v wv nv nivssvb :o xxow :nv coobxvss ov cobiv
co:v~xv,
:nv v~cv ov cv~cv iv~bixc us cvx:iv,
~xb :nv iivv ov vouv vvvvvsnixc Svivi:
novvvixc ovvv :nv v~cv ov :nv w~:vvs ov ouv iivvs
vv~bv ~xb wiiiixc :o nvixc vov:n xvw iivv
vvvx ix :nv vov:ivss ~xb voib vi~cvs ov ouv
nv~v:s ~xb co::uxi:ivs.
¡x~niv us :o :vus: vouv Svivi: ~:oxc us
~s wv ~vv vvvsvx: :o vou ox nvn~iv ov oxv ~xo:nvv,
lor wc arc gathcrcd in your strong namc, Lord Jcsus Christ.
Amcn.
8
LifeTogetherinChrist4602.indd 68 9/30/14 1:31 PM
Copyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions