That is a blog post for another time, but for now - I want to share a little bit about why the practice of using a spiritual director as been a blessing to my own personal walk with Christ, and perhaps encourage you to consider this practice for yourself.
As a life-long evangelical Christian, this practice of speaking to a spiritual director regularly is rather a new idea. While it has been a regular experience for some of my high-church brethren for centuries, those who share my own spiritual heritage are just now embracing the value of such a relationship. The director/directee relationship is a unique one, with the express purpose of helping only one of the member of the party to seek and find God's presence in their own life. The spiritual director is a "holy listener", a sort of second set of ears and eyes to see the movement of God in the directee's life.
It is different that most other counseling or even coaching relationships, in that a directee does not come to a director for counsel, or even advise, per se. Instead, a directee comes to the director for help to see the work of God in their life . The director acts as a mirror, helping reflect the light of God in the life of the person they are sitting with. While they may gently suggest or raise questions that will bring further clarity for what their seeking companion is trying to discern, their role is be a listener and a witness to the work that God does as the seeker searches for Him through their sharing.
Typically, a director/directee relationship begins with an understanding of specific time-based and emotional boundaries, and with a specific goal in mind. It is not a friendship, exactly - though that does naturally evolve. As it is hard to develop a deep friendship with someone when only one shares, it has its limits in that capacity. That said, I dearly love my director. And, I know I am loved. Even within the limits of our relationship, there has been sharing and gracious acceptance that has been blessed with a godly connection that is invaluable to me and my walk with the Lord.
Our time together (for me, a hour, once a month) is something I prepare for. This fact alone has changed my own walk with God. Taking time on a monthly basis to evaluate my own journey, to look back on victories and struggles in my faith, to ponder deep thoughts and anxieties over the past weeks with intentionality and purpose, has been clarifying and empowering. Knowing that at some point in the next 30 days I will share of my struggles and blessings, I am more aware and hold more closely those things I have learned and will share. Intentionally pausing to consider what I have learned of God and his way in my life in the recent past, has inspired and encouraged me on my spiritual journey. Being called to give an accounting of sorts for how I have allowed God to move in heart and mind ensures forward motion and growth in new, and exciting ways.
Often, I come to her with nothing I feel is inspiring or anything I feel is worth sharing. Even on those days, I leave feeling that my spirit is a buzz with God's energy. I also am often surprised with conviction, hearing my own words and seeing my own weaknesses in my narratives. More than once, I have been offered a gentle question that has given me pause in the moment, and resonated for weeks or months.
While spiritual direction has been around for centuries, how it has played out over time has changed. At one point in church history the director played the role of being the "voice of God" to a searching one. Often a director would give advice, or assignments to help guide a directee - they might would give instructions, as if an assignment from God, to further their growth. In most cases, it no longer means that for modern practice of this discipline. Modern experience in spiritual direction is more gentle. It is more of a coming along side another brother or sister in the Lord, to help them see God in their own life.
In my own growth, I have learned to embrace and appreciate with passion how God has called us to lean on and into each other as part of his provision. We are called to depend on each other, to teach, to learn from, and to encourage each other. Blessedly, there are many ways of doing that. One way, is through listening or helping a fellow sojourner by allowing them the sacred space to talk things through, with no intent to be instructed by anyone besides the Spirit himself.
In our world where speaking is more highly valued than listening, the ministry of being available could have profound influence on a person's spiritual journey. It has mine. It is teaching me to listen better, to not be so quick to speak my mind or to share my own thoughts. I often bring to mind my director, and how her quiet stillness has spoken so much grace to me as I have verbalized my own new awarenesses. I ponder how I am forced to accept those new truths, because they are my words- and not hers. I know that God has used her confidence, godly silence and slowness to speak to force me to listen more carefully for myself.
I am learning to be a better holy listener, because the ministry of listening has influenced me so profoundly.
If you are interested in seeking Spiritual Direction, you can find some possible references to directors in your area here.
If you are interested in exploring spiritual direction as a ministry, there are some wonderful books on the topic including, Holy Listening: the art of Spiritual Direction, by Margaret Guether, which is my favorite.
God has made such wonderful ways of finding him. Maybe you could be blessed through spiritual direction, as I have.
Blessings and graces,