Jesus had his circle of friends. The Buddha had his disciples. Frodo, in Lord of the Rings, had the Fellowship of the Ring. Nobody walks alone, even if, when we get right down to it, we have to walk that lonesome valley all by ourselves.
The Hero's Journey that I evoked recently--What is your Way? What is your Wound? What is your Work?--is a solitary calling. The hero must leave the tribe, driven away by circumstances or by inner promptings, to be launched on a great and arduous journey, a quest. The hero will surely be injured along the way but, in the end, will return, bearing a hard-w0n boon for the tribe. Whether or not the tribe realizes it, it will be blessed by the hero's journey. But the hero, wiser now, and world-weary, may no longer fit in at home. Think of Frodo, the quintessential hero, feted in the end, but alone.
Frodo's path was joined by the Fellowship of the Ring. It was an unstable alliance. They fought among themselves. They were tempted to usurp Frodo's quest with their own. Sound familiar? Like any church you've known? Still, the Fellowship accompanied Frodo, protecting him and helping him accomplish his mission, even though, to the bitter end, it remained his mission, his task, and his alone.
These stories of friendship--including the ones we tell ourselves in sitcoms--reflect our deep need for company on the journey. Not so someone else can do the dirty work for us, or remove the burden from our shoulders. But just so we're not alone. We were made to have companions, or what's the story of Adam and Eve for? We enter this world alone and, most surely, we'll depart from it alone. But along the way, we might get to enjoy the great blessing of friends.
There was a time when community formed more naturally than it does now. People didn't move so much. Your grandmother came for dinner every Sunday. Your cousins lived across the back lane. People up and down the street could tell you the history of your family, and upbraid you when you didn't act your part. Leaving the community was a big deal, and most didn't, though some did.
Now, most of us don't live where we were born, our neighbours are strangers, and our family lives a long way away. If we're to find friends on our journey, we have to be intentional about it. We might, for instance, invite them along, perhaps suggesting a format for our meeting. It's to this invitation, and to this format, that I'll now turn.
Next week: Will You Come and Follow Me?
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