Monday, August 16, 2004

Four Wheeling Spiritual Friendship

A few years ago I took a course at my church on Spiritual Disciplines. Each week we would explore one of the disciplines (a life pattern that listens to God) and would have an assignment for exploring that discipline in the coming week. One week the discipline was "spiritual friendship", which was a new one to me. It basically comes down to be willing to be close enough to someone to let them speak into your life from a different vantage point. Our assignment for the week was to spend some time with a close friend and to ask them to tell you what they particularly appreciated about you and (if you were daring enough!) what weakness they saw where you could seek to improve.

Well, as things would happen, my friend Bill and I were on a long drive together that week, so I decided to ask the first question and see how it went before trying the weaknesses part. Bill was very encouraging, so I paused, swallowed, and asked him where he thought I could improve. It sure seemed like he had more to say this time (surely just my pride being beat-up a little), but one thing that particularly stuck with me was his observation that I seemed to be good at avoiding things that I didn't accel at, that I only let people see me succeeding. I must admit that this is totally true, and you would only have to find me hiding away in a back room dabbling with watercolors to prove that it's still true (and no you can't see them :-).

So this past weekend we were enjoying the country life at Crystal's brother Lonny's ranch in Arkansas and Bill's spiritual friendship came into play yet again when Crystal excitedly asked, "When are we going to go four-wheeling?" Personally, I thought hanging out by the pool was adventure enough, but before I knew it engines were roaring and I was having to ask for a little lesson on how to work these fearful machines. Lonny quickly threw switches, started it up, worked the gearshift up and down a couple of times (noting that it generally skipped neutral and shifted straight between first gear and reverse), and declared me educated. Time to start looking stupid: "Woh...slow down...does down on the gear shift change to a higher or lower gear?"

After a few minutes on the paved farm drive with Crystal hanging on for dear life and reassuring me I was doing fine, I had decided that that might be enough adventure for the day, but Crystal's enthusiasm and Bill's silent encouragement got me to follow everyone across the road and to the terrorizing hills that had been the fodder of four-wheeling stories the previous day. ("Which control is for the front brake and which is for the rear??") Across pastures, dodging cattle, running over small trees, brushing away thistles, down into the stream bed...across the little trickle....up the opposite bank ("Don't gun it or you'll flip over!"). Wow, I can do this.... "Are you ready to go down the big hill?" Lonny asked. Fortunately, Tom volunteered to drive me down it on his 'Cadillac' automatic-transmission four-wheeler so down we went.

We crossed back over the road and Crystal got her chance to show off by tearing across the pasture with death-defying speed. She had said earlier that she had been more adventurous when she was younger, but education had put some sense into her head. Lonny's comment was that somewhere zooming down that grassy hill her education must have fallen out!

Anyway, it was a blast, and I survived, and nobody seemed half as concerned about me being the raw beginner than I did. As we sat in the driveway and traded stories together, Loni & Chris rode up on their horses. Someone asked, "Hey Rob! Have you ever ridden a horse?" "Um, no...tell you what, I'll try that out next time!"

Thanks Lonny. Thanks Crystal. And thanks Bill.


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