I do not like praying for answers. I find the results quite inconsistent in terms of their accuracy – or at least perceived accuracy. That is not to say that I do not pray about things, but rather than expecting a voice from heaven to direct me, I expect direction to come from the community that surrounds me. This sounds like a cop out I am sure, but it has been significantly more consistent in results than anytime I have asked for an answer from heaven. Then again, this could all be a misunderstanding of what prayer is or how it is supposed to work.
The primary question that comes to mind after reading Tom Comacho’s book is whether wisdom is a thing that is passed on from a coach to a coachee or is it the result of the community passing on their collective wisdom to the newer members of the community. For centuries people have matured thanks to the input of a whole group of believers and not a single specialist. Clearly something has changed within western society where the autonomous self has sought to grow on its own bringing on the need for experts that will help to guide a person into wisdom. But I wonder if coaching is a solution shaped by our time rather than a system that leans into our tradition as believers.
A single person, no matter how wise, can only bring so much wisdom to the table. Engaging with a whole community brings with it a seemingly unending supply. How then could we develop communities that share their wisdom with each other rather than falling back on the individualistic tendencies of our culture? Is not part of the mission of the church to escape the individualism that pulls us out of community with God and God’s people?
For years I lead a bible study with a group of seniors who wanted nothing more than to share what they have learned in life with younger people. I learned and grew so much just by interacting with this group of people. I always felt bad for the part of the church that had written off this group as the ‘heritage members’ of our church. What if rather than giving basic acknowledgment to those who have wisdom we were to provide them with a place of honor? What if as communities of faith we stop looking for heroes and started to grapple with the reality that wisdom is found in all of us and guidance can come from the most unlikely place if we open ourselves up to the wisdom provided by those around us.
Clearly there is a place for one-on-one guidance. The level of intimacy found in those relationships will never be replaced by the larger community. Direct questions about the path of ones life are not going to be easily solved from the community in the way that a coaching or spiritual direction relationship will be. That being said, if as a community we more openly shared our collective wisdom we might not need to find people specifically trained in coaching and could rather go to a trusted friend.