Three people you need to grow in your spiritual life

Icon of Holy Trinity

I participated in a five-day residency at Divine Mercy University (DMU) two weeks ago.  I was an adjunct faculty member assisting the students in the spiritual direction certificate program. 

At the residency, the students were asked to perform various mock scenarios as spiritual directors. I would share my observations and talk about their experience. 

I was on the other side of the table a few years ago. I remember my anxiety. I also remember the humility that came from trying out some new skills – reflecting, evoking, validating, deepening – and realizing I’m not nearly as skilled as I thought I was. Yet I not only survived but benefited tremendously from those dreaded ‘role plays’. 

It’s been said that there are three people every Christian needs in his or her life: Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy. Another way of saying this would be to say everyone needs a mentor, a trusted associate, and an apprentice.  In the residency, I was a Paul to the students, my Timothys, and my fellow faculty members were my Barnabas’s

The roles come from the Acts of the Apostles. Paul was a mentor to many early Christians. He guided many in the Christian faith and corrected any errors. I need a Paul I can turn to for guidance, and one who will turn to me if I stray.

Paul didn’t do this alone. He had Barnabas walking with him. Barnabas is a nickname that appropriately means “Son of Encouragement.” I also need a Barnabas, someone to encourage me; and at times listen to my crazy ideas. 

One of Paul’s mentees was Timothy. Paul had a tremendous amount of wisdom to impart, and Timothy benefited from that wisdom. Being the facilitator of a table of Timothys was surprisingly satisfying. They taught me as much as I think I taught them.

These roles apply to my spiritual life as well. I have a spiritual director, whom I look to as my Barnabas. We walk and talk together on this road to Emmaus and somewhere along the way Jesus shows up. For my Paul, I have a supervisor in spiritual direction, plus a few wise and experienced advisors who keep me on track. As a deacon, I have quite a few Timothy’s that come to me for advice. When I engage with any of the three, I am enriched in the giving, receiving, and sharing of the faith.  

Who in your life is your Paul? Your Barnabas? Your Timothy. If you’re drawing a blank, maybe turn to the Lord and ask Him to send you just the one you need.