A friend who came into my life through the Transforming Center passed away this week, and as I've been reflecting on my relationship with him, I wanted to write here to try to express something of why his friendship was a gift to me.
As part of the Transforming Community experience (which I describe as having saved my life), I wrote quarterly reflection papers. These weren't academic papers, and they weren't for grades. Rather, they were a space in which I could reflect on teachings and readings from the quarter and how they intersected (or sometimes, crashed into) with my life as I was experiencing it.
My two years in my initial Transforming Community experience were difficult ones, as within those two years and the months following I made drastic (and drastically needed) changes in my lifestyle and my approach to ministry, and I lost my dad to cancer.
In the context of those difficult years, I needed the space provided by those reflection papers to wrestle with things. I needed to reflect honestly on my life as I had been living it, why I was not on the road to becoming the kind of person I wanted to be, and how I might be able to reorient my lifestyle around my desire to live a more genuine life with God.
Each person in a Transforming Community who writes those reflection papers is matched with a reader who shares their journey through the two years, asks a few questions to deepen the reflection, and offers encouragement along the way. My reader was David Strieff.
David was reading my reflections before I began to discover spiritual direction, and he accompanied me well. As I wrestled, he was there alongside me. He was encouraging to me in those years, and in the years afterward whenever we would see one another or exchange emails.
Because he accompanied me well, I felt it to be such an honor when I later had the opportunity to be a reader for others going through their Transforming Community experiences. Accompanying others through those reflection papers was a major factor that led me to want to pursue spiritual direction training. And now, as a spiritual director, I'm constantly trying to be attentive to ways that incorporating some written reflection into spiritual direction can help to deepen our attentiveness to God.
And with David's death this week, I've realized how much of the richness of my journey during the past eight years can be traced back to those papers. I am glad that I still have my copies of them with David's handwritten responses. I am glad to have memories of his deep voice, warm smile, and strong hugs. And I am glad that Transforming Community gave us the space to share our journeys and become friends.