formation friday: touchstones

kathyescobar faith shifts, formation friday, spiritual formation 11 Comments

touchstones father boy.e

a touchstone: a test or criterion for determining the quality or genuineness of a thing.

on wednesday night at our house of refuge, my lovely and wise friend daisha facilitated a beautiful and simple evening centered on the idea of faith touchstones. not everyone has experienced a significant faith shift (although it sure seems a lot of us have!) but the reality is that all of us experience times where we need something real, deep, and sustaining to come back to.

we need a powerful truth that resonates somewhere beyond words. 

we need a touchstone that brings us back home.

for our gathering, she read this short piece from tattoos of the heart by father greg boyle (i still haven’t read it but it’s on my list).  here’s what it says about touchstones:

[quote]”God can get tiny, if we’re not careful. I’m certain we all have an image of God that becomes the touchstone, the controlling principle, to which we return when we stray. 

My touchstone image of God comes by way of my friend and spiritual director, Bill Cain, S.J. Years ago he took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer.  His father had become a frail man, depending on Bill to do everything for him.  Though he was physically not what he had been, and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively.  In the role reversal common to adult children who care for their dying parents, Bill would put his father to bed and then read him to sleep, exactly as his father had done for him in childhood.  Bill would read from some novel, and his father would lie there, starting at his son smiling.  Bill was exhausted from the day’s care and work and would plead with his dad, “Look, here’s the idea.  I read to you. You fall asleep.”  Bill’s father would impishly apologize and dutifully close his eyes.  But this wouldn’t last long.  Soon enough, Bill’s father would pop one eye open and smile at his son.  Bill would catch him and whine, “Now come on.”  The father would, again, oblige until he couldn’t anymore, and the other eye would open to catch a glimpse of his son.  This went on and on, and after his father’s death Bill knew that this evening ritual was really a story of a father who just couldn’t take his eyes off his kid. Anthony DeMello writes, ‘Behold the One beholding you, and smiling.’

God would seem to be too occupied in being able to take Her eyes off us to spend any time raising an eyebrow in disapproval. What’s true of Jesus is true for us, and so this voice breaks through the clouds and comes straight at us.  ‘You are my Beloved, in whom I am wonderfully pleased.’  There is not much tiny in that.”[/quote]

touchstones are not tiny. they are powerful. they are sustaining.they bring us back to what is real and true and noble and pure (philippians 4:8)

after she read this she gave us a card and a a few minutes and we wrote down a thought, phrase, picture, word, whatever came to mind as our faith touchstone, the thing we can come back to that is real and true for us and can sustain us when we’ve lost all the other peripherals. we didn’t discuss them or process them but rather one by one, all 20 of us, just went around the room shared ours out loud.  when everyone was done, we closed. there was something holy and sweet about listening to the beautiful sustaining truths for each person there. each person’s touchstone was different, and what i loved about it is it reminded me of the unique ways God moves in each of our souls. what’s sustaining for one is different for another.

the purpose of formation friday is to provide some opportunities to engage with God & our souls in some kind of intentional way. even though we touched on this before during the rebuilding after deconstructing series last year for discover what remains and “the one thing” that sustains us, i thought this was a good formation friday to consider this week.

  • what is your faith touchstone, the thing you can come back to as “real” no matter what else might have been stripped away? it can be an image, a story, a phrase, a verse, or…

mine is the same as it’s been for a while. emmanuel, God with us. always, always, always with us no matter what. the picture i drew was of being surrounded by God, before me, behind me, above me, below me, beside me, with me.  emmanuel  has carried me a long way now and it’s amazing to me how sustaining it can be.

i’d love to hear yours.

have a great weekend. i get to go on a quick getaway to my oldest son’s senior-last-home-football game on the east coast, so i’m pretty happy.  love, kathy