Anam Cara

“Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive.” Romans 12:11

The entrance into the new year has surprisingly been held in the embrace of anam ċara. “Anam ċara means soul friend,” John O’Donohue writes. “The anam ċara was a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging.” Soul friendship has been a long-held desire for me, yet there were lengthy seasons when it felt absent. What a delightful gift to begin 2019 aware of its presence!

The embrace was initiated by a surprise getaway with my husband for our 25thanniversary. Tim planned a lovely trip to the mountains to celebrate this milestone. Then, we returned home to a laughter-filled New Year’s Eve celebration with two of our oldest, dearest friends. A few weeks later the embrace culminated with a Saturday morning brunch, when an intimate group of friends gathered in my home to mindfully enter into the new year.

Many of the women in this group met in January 2016 to kick off what we imagined would be a year-long series of Red Tent dinners; however, two weeks after our initial gathering, our dear friend Lexi died. Her empty seat at the table in the following months was painful, so eventually our dinners ceased. Recently, when my friend Lori suggested the idea of beginning our dinners again, my heart leapt. And so, on a cold and rainy morning, six of us sat around the warmth of my kitchen table, ready to start our year with intention and to restart this community with hope.

Prior to the brunch, I invited each woman to consider what the word “desire” stirred in her, so after the carbs were consumed and the coffee cold, we moved into the den to talk. A sense of anam ċara saturated the room, and in the safety of the space, each woman shared honest, vulnerable thoughts about desire. Our conversation revealed the complexity of living with holy longing.

For some, desire had led to bitter disappointment and a loss of heart. For others, desire had resulted in melancholy and a loss of hope. I understood. I, too, have felt the stinging sorrow and gnawing ache of desire. However, as I considered what “desire” evokes in me today, I felt charged with electricity, and my heart quickened inside my chest. What a surprise to discover that desire pulses in my veins, and with it, a sense of eager anticipation!

Desire elicits a strong pull in our hearts—toward either dismissal or expectancy. To live with holy longing requires living with bravery, boldness, and hope.

As this group of soul friends shared stories, we bore one another’s words with a profound sense of reverence, compassion, and understanding. We listened intently; we spoke truthfully; we held silence; and we honored both laughter and tears. It was a sweet and sacred time.

To me, our Saturday morning gathering is a stirring metaphor for desire. We are entering into the embrace of anam ċara despite the risk of exposure, disappointment, and conflict. We are choosing laughter though we know there will be tears. We are dreaming of “more” while living in the tension of “less.” We are saying yes to life even though we have felt the sting of death. We are living in the “already, but not yet” without losing heart.

This is a glorious glimpse of what it looks like to live with desire. It’s also a beautiful place to begin—with the sweetness and safety of anam ċara, the bravery to come to the table, the boldness to tell the truth, the hope that a weary heart can be renewed, and the anticipation that smoldering desire can be rekindled into a flame.

Weekly Editor

A lover of story, Susan Tucker has always been captivated by beautiful writing. She is drawn to themes of tension, joy/grief, hope/loss, freedom/shame, which she explores in her own writing. Susan spends her days teaching middle school English, mothering her two teenage sons, and loving her husband of 25 years. She cherishes her first cup of coffee each morning, moments of quiet and solitude, restorative yoga, worship music, and faithful friends.nbsp