While listening to Everyday Genesis by Nika Maples on Audible this morning, I heard the term “soul friend” for the first time. She explains that a soul friend is someone who supports your spiritual walk in various ways at different seasons of your life. She described how David and Jonathan were just such friends as well as Jesus with James, John, and Peter. This discussion made me think about whether or not I have any soul friends and quickly my friend Monica came to mind. Monica is a dear Christian sister who frequently supports my soul in so many ways from encouraging my dreams, to praying for me whenever God lays my name on her heart and pushing me to be better in various aspects of my life. She’s a combination of surrogate mother and soul sister. She is one of the most supportive and loving Christian women that I have encountered in my lifetime.
She shares in my passion for children with special needs. She too is a special educator who has dedicated the better part of 20 years to teaching children with special needs in Life Skills and Medically Fragile classrooms across Texas. She has operated in the capacity of teacher, paraprofessional, and even substitute, all the while praying over classrooms, staff, and children as she works closely with them. More importantly she shares my passion for Christ and living a life of dedication to Him and his truths. She leads a group for Special Needs parents at her church and encourages me to interact with the group using my knowledge of special education from the perspective of both a parent and an educator to support others in difficult situations as well as celebrating victories with them. God has used her to bring out strengths in so many people through this group while building her own strength in the area of ministry to these families.
Monica encourages my dreams by not only praying for God’s direction in my life, but by making me think my way through them. It’s not uncommon for me to get a text or private message from her asking how things are going with regard to me making the next move toward a goal or previously voiced hearts desire. She keeps me accountable for taking the necessary steps and not losing sight of the purpose God has for me. She often reminds me of things I have long since forgotten from previous conversations she and I had while waiting in the cold for buses full of children to arrive and start our daily routine. She also prays for me. She lifts me up at times when she doesn’t even know my specific request, but knows that our Father God is able to answer any prayer.
Back when we were on the same campus, she and I were in similar but opposite situations where we struggled to connect with a team member who shared our individual classrooms. She a former well respected teacher on that very campus who stepped into a paraprofessional role as she prepared for retirement, and me a teacher new to the campus and the program with only a few years experience teaching special education. She had so much experience and insight to offer the newer teacher she was to support, and I was anxious for insight from the experienced paraprofessional who who had spent the last 6 years in the classroom I was to acquire. Unfortunately, while it seemed Monica and I were meant to support each other, we were not in the same classroom. The teacher she was to support was timid and reserved in her approach while Monica was outgoing and eager to see great things in their classroom. My para was somewhat passive-aggressive and, while she apparently had ideas about how things should be done in our classroom, said nothing when I asked for her input. Her response was typically something along the lines of “it’s your classroom now, just do it your way.” I appreciate that she felt she needed to step aside and allow me to take the lead, but what she didn’t understand was that I learned everything I knew about Special Education from the amazing paraprofessional in my previous classroom where I had spent the past three years. Since that was a medically fragile classroom full of students who needed support with every move they made from toileting to eating, and this was an Autism classroom where students needed specific structure and behavioral supports, I was relying on her to lead the way. Once I settled in and started to learn the ropes, she would covertly attempt the lead the way in a direction opposite of that which I had come to learn was appropriate for our setting. Both Monica and I were somewhat unhappy in our classes, but trusting God to grow us through this year of miscommunication and stress. I often deferred to her experience on ways in which to respond to and address the situations with which I found myself faced. She was the epitome of grace as she calmly moved forward in the cold and sterile environment of the classroom where she was assigned. God soon made a way for both of us to move out of those situations or moved the other staff member on to better things so that we could all step forward and grow in new and exciting ways. It was a challenging year or so, but together we survived and thrived.
Maples describes a soul friend as one who, like Jonathan to David, supports a friends spiritual needs and triumphs as if they were their own. They give correction when needed as well as accepting correction given in a loving Christ-like manner. This is certainly the relationship I have with Monica and I am blessed by this new beautiful picture of our friendship in light of what God does for us through each other. She is truly a soul friend who helps me to grow and rejoices in my triumphs and I in hers. I am thankful that God has placed such a precious soul in my life.
Who are your soul friends and how do they support God’s work in your life? How do you support His work in theirs?