God has blessed us with some wonderful relationships in our walk on this earth. Jim had the opportunity to learn from a man, Dr. Kellemen, who loves the Lord and simply wants to help heal the hurts that folks endure, but he is adamant that we all look to the Lord, first and last, for guidance in soul care and spiritual direction. His passion is for relationship with the Lord leading to relationships with people. This “spiritual father” to Jim and a former colleague, Susan Ellis, have teamed up to publish a book about women’s historical roles in soul care and spiritual direction.
We are posting a couple of questions that they have answered about the book as well as a couple about the ministry that Dr. K. has founded. Why do we post this here? Because we want to share some of the blessings that God has brought to us through the wisdom and diligence of those going into history and helping us learn how to deal with very present hurts and needs.
14. Many have heard of the theologian Augustine. Tell us about his mother, Monica, and her ministry in his life.
The name of Monica (331-387), mother of Augustine, is perhaps the best known of the Church Mothers. What we know about Monica we learn almost entirely from her son’s autobiography Confessions. Because we are fortunate enough to have Confessions, we can easily identify the most influential person in his spiritual life. Monica, his mother, stands out above all others as the spiritual guide and anchor, indeed, as the determinative relationship in his life.
Monica spent years suffering over her son’s pagan lifestyle until his conversion and commitment to Christian ministry. In the Confessions, which Augustine addressed to God, we hear of her reconciling witness to her wayward son. “In fact, as a boy I had heard about the eternal life that had been promised to us through the humility of the Lord our God’s lowering himself to our pride, and already I was stamped with the sign of his cross, already seasoned with his salt from the womb of my mother, who put great hope in You. . . . My fleshly mother was disturbed, because she more lovingly brooded over my eternal salvation, with a pure heart in Your faith.”
Coming to faith, Augustine describes a scenario to which every believing woman with an unbelieving husband can relate. “Thus already I believed, as did my mother and all the household, my father alone excepted, who nonetheless did not drive out the authority of my mother’s piety so that I did not believe in Christ, inasmuch as he did not yet believe. For my mother busied herself in order that You might be my Father, my God, rather than he, and in this matter You helped her so that she might overcome her husband, to whom she was subject . . .”
Christian mothers need to hear Monica’s voice. She confidently spoke and personified the reality that a mother’s piety can drown out a father’s irreverence. She also reminds mothers that they do not have to be both mother and father. In the absence of a believing father, Monica pointed her son to his ultimate Father, rather than trying to be a surrogate father.
Augustine reserves his final testimonial to his mother’s spiritual direction for her spiritual conversations with him in her dying days and hours.
“Thus we were talking alone together very sweetly, forgetting past events and stretching out to those ahead of us. We were seeking between us in the presence of truth, which You are, to think how the future eternal life of the saints would be, the life “which eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor had it entered the heart of man” (Is. 64:4; 1 Cor. 2:9). We opened wide the mouth of our heart to the supernatural streams of Your fountain, the fountain of life, which is with You, so that being sprinkled from it according to our power of comprehension, w might in some way reflect on so great a thing.”
Picture it. Mother and son. Leaning on a window, viewing the garden of their house, talking of eternal hope, knowing that she would soon be leaving this world behind. Imagine the encouragement in the midst of sadness that Monica brought her son.
When Monica passed away, Augustine wept. He lost his best spiritual friend. He lost the most important person in his life. He lost the earthly mother who led him to know his heavenly Father. Augustine grieved. But he grieved with hope because Monica had encouraged him with words of life.
15. Sometimes we may get the impression that when women “counsel” it is all emotion and empathy and “touchy-feely.” You found that while women counsel with emotion, they also were unafraid to confront boldly in love. Could you share some examples of that? What could we learn from this today?
Susan: One of my favorite stories is about Laura Haviland. If you read much about her, you’ll quickly see that she was a devout Christian, very much against slavery, and made no apologies for either. And yet she had the capacity to engage many slave owners and sympathizers in meaningful conversations.
One day she was talking to man who was a Sunday school teacher in his church. He told Laura that he’d have no problem turning in a runaway slave in order to collect the reward money. At that, Laura said she could no longer acknowledge him as a brother in Christ. He was quite offended, saying that was the most uncharitable thing he’d heard. They talked a bit longer, and he asked her to return to his home later that evening to discuss additional points of Scripture related to the topic. She said she would be in prayer before their next encounter and he agreed to do the same. When she returned later that night, he told her there wasn’t anything to discuss because he didn’t think his arguments would stand up. He died not long after that. Laura learned from his widow that he had a great deal of respect for Laura and his attitude toward “colored” people had changed after his conversation with her and that he “died a happy soul.”
One of the most challenging things about writing the book was deciding which women to include and which vignettes. Because Sojourner Truth was included in Bob’s book Beyond the Suffering, we opted not to write about her in Sacred Friendships. But there’s a great story about her at a meeting in Faneuil Hall in Boston. There was quite a large crowd in attendance, including Frederick Douglas who was one of the key speakers. As he was discussing the wrongs done to their race he became more and more worked up, to the point that he concluded the only way to resolve the issue was by blood; they must fight for themselves because the whites weren’t going to do it for them. He sat down and in the midst of the quiet hush Sojourner Truth stood up and simply said in a voice that everyone could hear, “Frederick, is God dead?” An eyewitness of the account says the entire tenor of the meeting changed in a flash. The abuses were very real, but Sojourner thought the conclusion about how to resolve the issue was misguided and she wasn’t afraid to say so.
Over and over again we see one unshakable commonality among all the women in the book. They are supremely focused on Christ. That’s something that we all need, whether male or female. When we are grounded in the Lord, we can be freed up to say the bold things, but we must do it in love.
I (Susan) think that sometimes women are afraid that if they speak boldly, they’ll be viewed as harsh, masculine, or unloving; that they think to speak boldly, especially when it’s a hard or confrontational truth, they won’t be seen as loving. What I hope women will come to realize is that sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to say the hard thing, even if means rejection. Loving enough to risk the relationship takes enormous courage, but it is no doubt godly love.
23. Tell us about your speaking, writing, and consulting through RPM Ministries.
Bob: I believe that most Christians care deeply, but struggle to speak the truth in love. RPM Ministries exists to equip lay people, pastors, educators, students, and Christian counselors to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. We do so by speaking, writing, and consulting about Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation.
Our passion is to empower the church and para-church to care like Christ. As a result, God’s people enter deeply into one another’s lives and make a significant different in the lives of hurting and hardened people.
RPM is our acrostic for Resurrection Power Multipliers. We based the concept upon Paul’s prayer in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.”
We want to raise up a new generation of biblical counselors and spiritual friends who live out 1 Thessalonians 2:8. “I loved you so much that I gave you not only the Scriptures, but my own soul, because you were dear to me.”
To learn more about RPM Ministries, please visit www.rpmministries.org.
24. How can people get in touch with you and how can they learn more about your ministry and about Sacred Friendships?
I can be contacted by email at: email@example.com
A free sample chapter of Sacred Friendships is available at: http://bit.ly/1S1haj
Sacred Friendships is on sale at 40% off for $12.99 at: http://bit.ly/MG1l5
To learn more about RPM Ministries, please visit: www.rpmministries.org