DAYS OF DEEPENING FRIENDSHIP walks its reader through a spiritual journey, with eight progressive parts, some more warmly named than others. Vinita Hampton Wright notes: “Friendship with God, like human relationships, goes through necessary stages --- and not all of them feel friendly.” Each section comprises five short chapters; that means 40 in all, each titled by a personal, reflective question.
To give you a flavor, these are the names of the sections, followed by the first chapter title (all chapter titles are written as questions): Beginning, “What Has Awakened Your Spiritual Desire?” Hesitation, “How Do You Approach God of the Universe?” Awareness, “What Is Your History with God?” Resistance, “What Is Holding You Back?” followed by, “Are You Ready to Be Honest?” Conversation, “What Has Prayer Been for You?” Attention, “How Do You Truly Wake Up?” Engagement, “Why Are Your Gifts Important?” and Love, “How Does Listening Express Love?”
Wright’s progression is based on the classic spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. This form of prayer involves listening as much as talking to God, trusting that the Holy Spirit is speaking to your spirit as you discern God’s “consolations” as well as “desolations.” God is for you, not against you. He wants to befriend you and work with your strengths. Some women traditionally have found the tone of Ignatian spirituality a bit too masculine for their life situations. So Wright tweaks the principles to be more attuned to feminine sensibilities. And it works as a “spiritual workshop for women.” She notes, “Women should be free to bring their honest experience into this relationship…specific challenges that come with being women in the world. But we also bring specific gifts to the spiritual venture --- such as the ability to listen and converse, and the spiritual intuition through which the Holy Spirit has spoken since the time of the earliest prophets.”
In the introduction, Wright suggests that readers imagine a comfortable room in which they enter for reflection. “This is a room where lies and fears come to die. This is the room where God dwells, where divine love waits for your arrival. This is the room we will enter now, in order to make friends with God.” Then each chapter --- maybe four pages of meditative narrative --- ends with a “Here in the Room” sidebar that focuses the reader’s imaginative reflection on her own personal and spiritual longings and possible obstacles to their fulfillment, always drawing the reader toward intimacy with God. This is not a book meant to be read in a day or a week. Each chapter should be mulled over --- the reflections carefully considered --- for at least a day.
Wright, a trained musician noted for her fiction writing (including VELMA STILL COOKS IN LEEWAY and DWELLING PLACES), leads workshops that explore “how spirituality and creativity thrive and inform each other.” In this new nonfiction work, her voice is warm, personal and vulnerable, and yet her own story does not get in the way of the reader’s spiritual discovery and journey toward an intimate friendship and conversation with God.
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on January 1, 2009