NEARLY ten years ago the Spirit of God introduced me to the concept of ‘travelling with.’ At that time, He had a special task for me: to travel with my eldest daughter as she was finishing school and entering into tertiary training. She was in a vulnerable place, not knowing what she wanted to do, and yet having the distractions of an adult world opening up to her. The Spirit gave me the image of travelling with as a metaphor for how my relationship with her was changing.
But the Spirit extended the principle soon after. My career required me to mentor and coach other personnel in my field, and to supervise consultants that the port authority I worked for utilised. Then I discovered something. There was a great deal of veracity in the method of pastoral care I call high relationship pastoral care even in that arena.
High relationship pastoral care is such focus and attention on the relationship with the other person that faith is a necessity. Faith is pivotal in being attuned and surrendered to the Spirit to the point that intimacy with the person being travelled with is on their terms. That’s where faith comes in. We don’t always feel we have the time nor the energy for such intensity of relationship. But if we’re willing and rightly positioned, God will help us be able for the task.
It’s possible to maintain more than one of these relationships — indeed, it’s how mentoring works best from my viewpoint. In the past I’ve had up to half a dozen and more of these relationships going at once. In fact, I find that rarely do I have less than two or three at a time, and some just go through seasons of dormancy as the flow of life continues on.
Why High Relationship Pastoral Care is a Great Discipleship Tool
Discipleship outcomes, I find, are dependent on relationship (with God and others), and relational authenticity is the provoker and driver of change in a person’s life. Discipleship is essentially about change; personal transformation. We cannot grow if we cannot change. And growth opportunities are baulked at when we’re in a relational vacuum. To grow, we need others, and we need God.
I think the most effective way for change to occur in a person’s walk with God is to create and maintain effective mentoring relationships. Such relationships will involve transparency between both parties, superior communication, and commitment to a journey that potentially has no worldly limits placed on it (provided both feel that’s safe, and is able to be achieved without harming others).
The mentor provides high relationship pastoral care, usually over a season, but it can be over a person’s lifespan, and all stages and phases between. Such a mentor is more than a friend; they can swing into modes of counsellor, mediator, and spiritual guide, as well as a companion to walk the oft arduous sojourn of life with. Of course, the necessity of safety cannot be overemphasised.
Mentoring, like counselling type relationships, is a unique and privileged relationship for both. Information, thoughts and feelings may be shared in this space complicit of trust, and a special kind of respect is nurtured and maintained. As such a relationship blossoms, and intimacy is tried on and worn and adjusted and readjusted, the ripples of trust permeate out into other relationships — not least with God. And that, for me, is discipleship. It’s about intimacy and being able more and more to be safely vulnerable, so we have more and more the capacity to be real in the realities God presents us to live in.
Back to travelling with.
As a metaphor for relating with all people in life, there can be no better way to a blessed humility than sincerely endeavouring to travel with people.
Whether it’s a 5-minute public train ride interaction or a more deliberate two-year journey to healing, travelling with is a rewarding interface for and between both. Think about it. There is no better reality for a Christian than being open to God in their own life, and being equally open for other people. On the one hand, the Holy Spirit ministers pastorally through Himself and older, wiser other persons to us, and yet on the other hand, there’s the privilege of empathy we may have for a younger other person, who’s hamstrung by matters with which we’ve had some life experience.
Travelling with is the diffusion of our own concerns in the realm of time through the genuine warmth created with another. We cannot deny our own concerns. But we can allay those concerns in faith by applying our warmth to another’s concerns. In serving in our own vulnerable authenticity we’re rewarded with something we richly need, that only the Holy Spirit can provide.
High relationship pastoral care creates authenticity through mutual vulnerability, and in that environment healing becomes possible.
The wounded healer can mediate the intended healing of God through wise use of their own woundedness in the power of the Holy Spirit. And high relationship pastoral care achieves that end, because the intensity of the relationship is what the person desiring healing needs, and the wounded healer can provide.
The wounded healer has learned that travelling with people on the journey to their healing is facilitated by embracing wounds suffered.
Wounded healers encourage those seeking healing by the way they embrace their own and the other’s woundedness.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.