I am writing this during a scheduled writing retreat that I planned with a friend. We’re staying up late, drinking caffeine and eating food that is bad for us. (Well, I am; she brought fairly healthy snacks!) I’m enjoying my new Savannah office for Openings: Let the Spirit In and taking advantage of the quiet that evening brings.
We scheduled this because both of us have talked and talked about wanting to make time in our lives to write more, how hard it is to find that time, and listing all the excuses that keep us from doing it. I mentioned that for a recent writing project for my church I stayed up all night college-style drinking Mountain Dew and eating cheese balls.
I was probably saying what a mistake it was – all of it: the caffeine, the snack food and especially the lack of sleep. But instead of taking that message away, we took away the message that both of us write better late at night when the press of the day’s responsibilities have passed. And we realized that we rarely do it. So we agreed to schedule a time to sit down together, but separately, and work on our various writing projects.
This works for me. I almost cancelled. I have a big project due in a couple days and should probably work on that tomorrow instead of catching up on sleep. A night away means that my husband has to do the bedtime routine for our son on his own and he hurt his back earlier in the week. I hadn’t heard from my friend as of 3 in the afternoon, so surely she had forgotten and we should reschedule.
Then her e-mail arrived. “We’re on for tonight. It’s on my calendar. What time? Text if it’s easier.” Accountability right there in the palm of my hand.
In the past two years I have been more intentional about my spiritual life than I have ever been in my prior 45 years on this earth. I have engaged friends in this endeavor as accountability partners and sounding boards. I have a long term spiritual director, a practice I always found excuses not to engage in before. I am part of the Shalem Institute’s Spiritual Guidance Program, so I have to do intentional reflection on my own work as a spiritual director in the company of others called to this ministry.
I have found that this whole contemplative journey is so much better with friends. I wonder if people who feel they are outside contemplative circles see those of us on this path sitting by ourselves in silence and assume we’re the most disconnected people in the universe. And we probably can be insular sometimes. But the work happens better with friends and companions on the journey.
Sometimes the work ONLY happens with friends and companions on the journey. Jesus was on to something when he sent his disciples out in pairs; they needed the encouragement and accountability each could bring to the mission. Even in faith traditions that value the lives of hermits and those who live apart for prayer and discipline, there is a sense that those who are in solitude remain connected to the whole and their work has a benefit beyond individual redemption and glorification.
Who helps you be accountable in your spiritual life? Do you have a specific friend or faith community to encourage your journey? Do you think you would be a good hermit? What are your “go to” excuses that keep you from doing things you want to do, but never make time for? What’s your favorite snack food and when was the last time you stayed up late eating it? Mornings or evenings – when do you write best?
If you need some accountability for your spiritual journey consider a spiritual director. You can find more information and a spiritual director near you on the Spiritual Directors International website or contact me at Openings: Let the Spirit In. If you’re in the Savannah, GA area we can meet in person, and spiritual direction also works well online if you are far away.