That's why, in the name of friendship, I was excited to pick up Leslie Parrott's new book, Soul Friends.
[From Amazon Description]: God brings us soul-friends to help in our spiritual journey, sometimes in predictable places: small groups, friendships, and mentors. But they’re sometimes found in places we don’t expect―these “hidden guides” are people, past or present, whose role in our life may even be hidden from them, but nevertheless, have a deep impact on our growth and vitality. Whether it’s a hidden guide, a member of a small group, or a friend we’ve had for years, these soul-friends all hold the potential to embody grace that enables us to take a next step in the unfolding journey of our faith.
Leslie reveals how every woman traverses four stages of spiritual growth―quest, calling, crisis, and communion – again and again. And whatever stage you find yourself traveling right now, you need soul friends to help you move forward
When we seize the initiative to connect, together we will form a part of the deep communion that is the sisterhood of the traveling saints, journeying together in our desire to know God, serve him, and love him more deeply. Through story, poem, and reflection, Leslie Parrott reminds each of us of the incredibly intimate, intricate, faith-forming work God does in us through the gift of the women he places in our lives.
Soul Friends has the unfortunate flaw of missing its main premise. The cover promises a deep discussion on worthwhile friendships. The actual text discusses the cycles of a woman's spiritual life, while friendships are used as anecdotes and supporting points. Leslie emphasizes that friends are vital during each stage of Quest, Calling, Crisis, and Communion--but never explains in-depth the how or why they are crucial. Friendships should have been the main thrust, with the spiritual journey as a side-development. But it was the other way around.
Another thing that constantly threw me off was the use of the Message Bible for scripture quotations. Parrott chose Message for its poetic and friendly style, but it was so casual that I really couldn't view it as Scripture. I appreciate the fact that she chose it to create a certain mood in the reader, but found it more distressing than helpful.
This is a hard review to write. I felt as if I came to her book hungry for bread, and was given toaster pastries instead. Sweet, but not nourishing to the deepest parts of my soul.
Even though I felt the book missed its main potential, Leslie has a sweet, sweet spirit about her that I only want to praise. Her writing style is warm and friendly. If anything, it struck me that Leslie would be a wise and compassionate friend herself, and I would love to know her personally. There were several quotes, if I had had a pencil handy, I would have underlined, especially towards the end of the book. She writes from a real position as a busy wife and mom, striving to know Jesus, striving to minister to those around her, not from a lofty pedestal of having it all figured out. I was blessed by her willingness to be real.
This book wasn't what I expected, but it seemed theologically sound, and I think it still has the potential to bless many women. I thought of several people I could give it to who would come at it with different expectations than myself. A lot of ladies' groups would enjoy discussing this together. I felt like it could have struck a much deeper note in today's hurting times, but it has the potential to kick-start deep discussions. After all, a good book is a catalyst for good conversation--and perhaps those conversations can be instrumental in deepening a friendship.
I'm still looking for a book on soul friendships. But if you're looking for an inspirational collection of thoughts on a woman's spiritual journey, with friendship as a side point, you may enjoy Leslie Parrott's Soul Friends.