(This is one in a continuing series of posts where I use St. Augustine’s Confessions as a jumping off point)
I have written a few times about the need for mentors and friends in the journey of faith. It’s an important topic and I give thanks to God for the holy women and men he has put in my life at just the right moments. I have been helped and advised as a parent, husband, friend, pastor, and various other roles by a wonderful array of people.
It can be hard (believe me I know) to put on the humility that is needed to listen to advice or criticism and hear something important and put it into practice. One element I realize about this is that the goal is something can make one seek out help and be more open to the help.
For instance, if I do not know how to change a car battery and I have a car that needs a new battery, I might try to save some money by admitting to a friend that I could use their help (thanks Franz and Seb). The goal of saving money, in this case, outweighs the fear-shame-pride that might keep me from asking for help. The ask builds community and gets the battery changed!
It does get easier to ask for help when we build up that muscle and learn to accept that there are thing we know and things we don’t know and that makes plain old sense.
If the goal is to reach old age with a spouse and still be in love and feel as though you have done right by them, you might ask some folks who have been a married a minute longer what their advice is. I have had wonderful conversations by just asking something simple like, “what do you feel you have done well in your marriage?” People love to answer that sort of question because it implies a willingness to learn and it also implies that they have something to share. Here, again, my goal/purpose is so large it make me humble and thus makes it easier to ask and to listen.
Auggie did not know everything, smart as he was. He did have a goal in mind that was so big it would keep him humble and that no matter how far down the road he was he would seek out others who might have something to offer. Here is how he describes on such person (notice he doesn’t pick a random fella but carefully selects someone he has reason to trust),
You put a thought into my mind, and it seemed good in my sight to go straight to Simplicianus. It was clear to me that he was a good servant of yours; in him your grace shone out. I had heard that from his youth he had lived a life of complete devotion to you. He was now an old man; and, given his great age, and the devout zeal with which he followed your Way, I was sure he had experienced much and had learnt much. And so it was. I wanted, therefore, to share with hi the ebb ad flow of my uncertainties, and to hear from him what was the proper middle course for one affected as I was, so that I could walk in your way (ps 128.1).
Notice also the reason he wanted advice, to follow the psalmist’s declaration that to be blessed one must walk in the way of the Lord. This is a big project! Big enough to quiet the voice that wants to “already know everything,” if you catch my drift. The project is big enough to help him overcome the sorts of obstacles to looking for and then humbly approaching someone to guide him.
Personally I have found this to be true, when the goal is big enough reaching out for help is easier. I have also found it helpful to have a multitude of people because a- it might get dangerous to let one person have too much say in your life and b- it means I got to certain people for one piece of advice (like car batteries and trailer hitches) and another person for how to handle a particularly challenging pastoral care issue, and another yet when it comes to parenting or financial advice. They say it takes a village to raise a kid, maybe I am just immature it seems to me it takes a village to keep anyone afloat.