"Ah, dearly beloved son, why didst thou go on thy journey without taking counsel with me? For the country which thou art seeking from God, ye will never find on these dead soft skins, for it is a holy consecrated land, and no blood of man was ever shed in it. But let timber boats be made by thee."
- Anonymous, Vita Brendani (Irish, 12th century, from an earlier ms.)
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
- Proverbs 11.14
The story of Brendan's (fl. 560) voyage to the Promised Land of the Saints is probably an historical fiction, meant to teach the virtues of the disciplined life. In the story Brendan feels the call to leave Ireland and sail westward over the unknown sea, looking for the Promised Land of the Saints.
He and his company make boats of leather hides - ash frames covered with several layers of leather, stiched together and pitched. On their first journey they have many adventures, and each time their life of discipline and faith brings them through to safety. We are to learn that even the unknown waters of life can be successfully navigated, if only we have faith and discipline.
But they do not reach their destination and return to Ireland disappointed. Brendan hastens to Ita, his old school mistress, seeking counsel. She advises him to put off the dead skins and build boats of timber. He complies, and they achieve their destination on the second voyage. The moral: Stop trusting in the ways of sinful flesh and lean only on the wood of the cross.
Ita chides him for not seeking her counsel first - one of the many anecdotes in Brendan's story that have a ring of history to them. Indeed, Brendan sought the counsel of no one in his first adventure, and, while it was not a disaster, it did not succeed.
Celtic Christians stressed two things that Brendan needed to remember: The importance of community and the need for soul friends. We do not walk the life of faith alone. Or, if we do, we are guaranteed to fail. We belong to one another, and we need one another, especially at those times when we have important decisions to make or difficult challenges to surmount.
An effective self-watch includes both soul friends and counselors to guide our planning, oversee and review our work, correct us when needed, and encourage us at all times. If you wish to have such friends, then you must be such a friend yourself.
Who this day would benefit from your coming alongside to encourage or affirm? Who needs an arm around the shoulder? A note of appreciation and love? A gentle word of correction? Who, in short, needs you? Don't worry about what you need. Reach out to others to counsel and encourage, and God will meet you with His presence and glory.
Where you will know fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16.11)!
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
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