Monday, January 19, 2015

Traveling Companions

The other day, I was reading in the New Testament when I noticed anew the myriad of Paul's traveling companions. One of the most notable, although one we least consider when talking about Paul and his missionary journeys, is Luke. Or, rather, Dr. Luke.

What makes Dr. Luke interesting as a traveling companion is what we read elsewhere in Paul's letters about his own physical condition. Paul refers to a "thorn in the flesh," which many believe to have been a physical ailment. Was Luke's presence, then, primarily as a personal physician to Paul, enabling him to continue to do the mission work to which God had called him?

Interesting question.

And I'm not asking because I have some grand insight into the answer. The truth is: we don't know. We can probably never know. Nothing tells us whether Luke was like Simon and Andrew, James and John and left his profession to follow the way of the Lord or whether, because of his profession, he was a part of enabling Paul's following of the way of the Lord. But it raises an interesting question for you and I. That question is this:

Who do you need traveling with you? 

What is the role of the person or persons who best enable you to do what God has asked you to do in this life? And do you have that person(s)? And are you maximizing the benefit of traveling with him/her?

You see, we can get so distracted by some things in our lives that we put the wrong people around us. We're asking the wrong questions, living out of the wrong insecurities. And we waste our time and our gifts, as well as the gifts of those we ask to come with us, by not paying attention to what the real question is. 

My body is not perfect; it has its quirks about it. It has its things that can stop me dead in my tracks sometimes. There are days when I wonder whether I will be able to meet the demands of the day because I wonder if my body is going to keep up. It would sometimes be easy to say that life, and mission, would be easier with a personal physician attending to my needs. But I don't need a doctor traveling with me; that is not the insecurity that keeps me from doing my best work for God. 

I am a single woman. I often look around at all the married people in ministry and what strength they draw from their spouses, their children, their families. I think about what it might be like to have someone at home to help carry the load of who I am and what I do every day. I think about coming home at night to a husband, a loving, genuine husband, and how that might change the way that I do what I do for God. It would be easy to get married and say that this is my traveling companion. But I don't need a husband; singleness is not my greatest insecurity. (Now, of course, it would be wonderful if I had a husband and he is what I need in a traveling companion, and this is often the case in godly marriages. But it is simply not necessary that my traveling companion, at this juncture, be a husband.)

Going into my retreat class a few weeks ago, one of our tasks was to complete a series of personality, emotional health, and spiritual gift assessments and figure out our strengths and weaknesses. (Spoiler alert: it seems I do have a personality after all.) And sometimes, it's tempting to say that what we most need in a traveling companion is someone who is the complement to who we are - someone with the other personality type or emotional intelligence or spiritual gift. To say that because I am an introvert, I clearly need an extrovert to do my best ministry, for example. But I would say that not even that is true. As an introvert, the ministry I am in needs an extrovert in order for that ministry to do its best work, perhaps, but I, as an introvert, am no better nor no worse as a minister if the person with me is an extrovert. It brings out neither the best nor the worst in me.

See, what we most need in our ministries (and life is a ministry if you're living it for God) is not the person who complements us, but the person who compliments us. We need that encourager, that person who pushes us into the best version of ourselves, that person who gives us what we need to be who God created us to be. And that's different for all of us. 

For Paul, maybe that was Dr. Luke. Maybe his thorn in the flesh was so severe that he needed that personal physician to free him to do what God had asked him to do. For me, I think I'm finding that my best traveling companions are women of grace. One of my greatest insecurities is the grace that I do not have for myself; these women ground me in grace and remind me who I am. They know how to make the big things the big things and the little things fade. They keep things in perspective for me when I'm likely to be crushed by the weight of my own imagination. 

So the question today is this: Who do you need traveling with you?

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