Updated: Jan 17, 2022
Dr. RB McFee
The other day I was doing my devotion and the words “buddy system” came to me strongly.
At first I wondered, was it my subconscious percolating from the last episode of Hawaii Five O and reminiscing about SCUBA diving off the coast many years ago? So I asked God if He was suggesting that I go back under water again.
Not seeing a coral reef in the answer, soon thereafter I thought of someone in church I have wanted to talk with more regularly about faith.
And as I kept praying during my devotion time, the words “buddy system” kept popping up. Was He trying to tell me something?
So I started to think about “buddy system” from my own experiences, life in general, and what God might be hoping I would get from His suggestion.
My first experience with “buddy system” occurred when, as a little kid, we moved up to New England. The first day of school I got assigned a ‘patnah,’ a word which was unintelligible to Pennsylvania ears, but in ‘Massachusetts speak’ translated to “partner,” something apparently everyone needed when going to the bubbler (which for those not born in this region, also requires translation…it means water fountain). Understandably at that point I asked my parents for airline ticket back to the Keystone State.
In spite of my first experience with “buddy system,” there’s something important about travelling with a “patnah.” In many situations it is not only about sharing a mutually enjoyed endeavor, but potentially lifesaving, as well. And makes things more enjoyable, too!
I know this from experience; you may too. In virtually every adventure type sport I’ve participated in, there’s always been the need for a partner.
In SCUBA diving it is near Ex Cathedra to have a buddy. You just don’t dive alone. The same is true for other sports. Unless free climbing, something above me, all pun intended, indoor rock climbing requires a partner. Especially given it isn’t a good idea to belay yourself, unless you are filming an episode of ‘how to quickly meet St. Peter,’ or are desperate to get on Tosh 2.0.
For those studying martial arts, sparring with the mirror will only get you so far. And who wants to take the risk of 7 years of ‘you know what,’ if you get too aggressive with the image ‘fighting back?! Ouch! And try learning to fence alone. Stuffed animals were meant to be hugged, not skewered.
Although many of us go hiking at places we know well and certainly most of the trails around Sturbridge have visible markings and are safe, it still is a good idea to hike with someone.
Even kayaking you should have a buddy, although not in the same boat. Been there done that. Trust me…. give up the mocha latte and spend the extra money on separate kayaks! That notwithstanding, avoid going boating all alone.
So I think we’ll agree there is value in the ‘buddy system.’ But how does this pertain to our faith?
Thinking further about this, I doubted God intended for me to write about us building a ‘patnah system’ at church for times when we need the restrooms or ‘bubbler.’ I was back to thinking about people at church, and a spiritual “buddy system.”
In the Bible, the concept of travelling with partners was big.
God instructed Noah to save animals “2 by 2.” Now his may have been God’s way of making the Old Testament ‘PG13’ instead of His coming right out and suggesting the Ark was a ‘couples only’ cruise. But I would suggest it was also a buddy system – one designed to populate posterity. Still I think He was on to something.
Not just for animals, or men travelling together, or women teaming up; the successful faith buddy system could also be a husband and wife couple. Consider the powerful ministry of Abraham and Sarah.
In the New Testament, Jesus often sent His Disciples out ‘2 by 2’ – as small teams. Consider for example, when Jesus instructed two Disciples to obtain the donkey for Him to ride triumphant on Palm Sunday, or to secure the upper room for the Last Supper.
The value of the buddy system went beyond just the dangers of hazardous roads. Sure much of the land was inhospitable – arid, rocky, often isolated. Then there were the wild animals, and bandits. But those threats weren’t the only reasons God, or Jesus often encouraged partnerships, the buddy system.
There is power in the support of a close friend committed to, and trained in the same adventure we are taking. It goes beyond safety, or even fellowship. It is the synergy of learning together, sharing experiences, and examining the lessons learned from each time in the water, on the trail, up the wall, or the latest time preaching the Good News at a village has provided. It is the fresh perspective, loving admonishment, encouragement and concerns that come from such partnerships that enable us to grow.
Usually we start off with a “buddy” in sporting situations because of a shared interest. Often such “buddies” start to become friendships, where instead of just meeting for a specific purpose, it evolves into liking the person for who they are, not just their role in our avocation. With faith buddies, just like sports buddies, it can start from function to friendship or visa versa. Either way it can be a blessing.
For example, although we tend to think of Paul as working solo, he often travelled with a buddy. One could argue that without his ‘adventure in Christ partner’ – whether Luke, Silas, or Timothy, much of what we know about Jesus, His ministry, and the lessons learned from the first Christian communities might be lost.
The same is true in our faith life. Consider the value in having a ‘faith buddy’ to encourage when times are especially hard, and who can help keep you on the trail, or go that extra ten feet even when you think you have nothing left and are running on empty. Think of the potential friendship in Christ that can evolve? Or the blessing of learning new insights in your walk with Christ, as shared with a faith buddy.
Christ and companionship, can it be any better?
To be sure many of us at CCUMC, and the wider Christian community have access to online sermons, even prayers or Bible studies. Some of us attend Bible fellowships, like the six week series on Peter that was held in the autumn. And hopefully another will start once we can safely gather again. Then there are the prayer warriors – prayer chain groups connected by email. Some worship by praise music rehearsals even when performances in church are limited. We have other groups within the church that promote fellowship. And for some in our faith family members routinely talk as friends, and in faith.
Make no mistake about it – we need confidents, and we need regular human contact in a form of sacred fellowship.
That said, how often do we treat our faith life as a buddy system adventure? If you were doing indoor rock climbing* you would select a belaying partner who you could trust, and enjoyed hanging out with. And you would schedule regular, weekly climbing time together; to improve your skills, but also for the fellowship.
In similar fashion do we have an ‘adventure in Christ partner,’ a ‘faith buddy?’ Someone we regularly – perhaps once a week, perhaps twice a week – have protected time with to pray, share our faith journey, listen to, learn with, and care about?
This is different from our daily private time with the Lord – prayer, devotion, conversation, listening time with God. This is embarking on a spiritual hike in faith with a fellow hiker of God. This is about another form of fellowship.
If our faith journey matters, then we need to treat it the way we approach any other endeavor that is important to us – by practicing it regularly. I can’t expect to get good at a sport or any activity for that matter, if I don’t set time aside on a consistent basis to do it.
Part of our faith journey is solo time with the Holy Spirit. But part of it requires faith buddies.
Faith buddies can help us in discerning our journey in Christ, and in exploring the Bible, all while being in the Presence of God and company of another faith adventurer.
Here’s an example; about once a week I hike with a fellow Christian, weather permitting. Before we start our time on the trail we take turns offering a quick prayer to acknowledge God in our midst, the beauty of His creation, and inviting His Presence as we walk together. Sometimes we talk about scripture and faith journeys.
For some among us, hiking on a trail in the winter may not be your cup of Oolong, but for others it can be a healthy, refreshing time to share your faith with an ‘adventure in Christ partner.’
Dr. Johnson many centuries ago offered this sage bit of advice…to paraphrase from Olde English…..
‘Friendships must be kept in constant repair.’ So does our relationship with God, and how we tend our faith journey. So must our fellowship with others.
So why did “buddy system” come to mind so strongly in my devotion time?
Being one of God’s followers is all about relationship – with Him, and each other. We falter. We sometimes lose our way. We often need to be helped, or to help others.
‘Buddy system;’ perhaps it is another way of promoting spiritual intimacy at a time in society when so many factors have seemed to be barriers against it. Perhaps God wants us to look at other opportunities to strengthen our journey in Christ, our focus on Him, and to allow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to move us in new directions.
Maybe try it out?
If you don’t have a faith buddy, but have a friend at church, or fellow Christian you enjoy talking with, might I suggest you invite a new twist to your friendship – set aside some protected time each week or every other week, and whether it is over Zoom, the phone, a hike, however you wish to connect, ask about sharing your adventure in Christ, to be a part of your faith journey “buddy system.”
Consider starting off scheduling 15, 20 or 30 minutes ‘buddy in Christ’ time; to pray, to share your faith journey with, to bring up where you have questions, or an issue of belief you aren’t sure how to handle it, or just to discuss something fun you learned in devotion time, or an interesting insight from reading Scripture or inspirational sources. If you are doing this during hiking or tea time, adjust times accordingly.
By the way it doesn’t have to be just one faith buddy, but you might want to start out with one first to get a feel for it.
“The buddy system”
Is this another way to practice our faith more regularly, to stay better focused on our own spiritual journey, and to help others on their journeys in Christ, too? Is this another way to promote fellowship, and invite Christ into our midst?
“On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey.”
Luke 24:13-35 CEB
*Another fellowship opportunity for our CCUMC family - indoor rock climbing or hiking, once we are post pandemic. If interested email me. And let me know how your faith buddy system is going.