A good part of my work week is spent sitting in a chair, turned toward another, prayerfully listening to this person convey what he or she believes are the most significant movements in his or her relationship with God. It’s quiet work; reflective work. Almost always, at some point in this hour or so of offering spiritual direction, I will feel overwhelmed with gratefulness at the gift of participating in such a holy exchange.
My husband, David, has compared the fit of this work with slipping on a glove. For him, discovering and offering spiritual direction is like getting all five fingers in a glove, unlike in past roles where only a few fingers fit and the others were left dangling. I feel similarly. I find this gentle work of listening and helping a directee attune to God so gratifying and enlivening. And I firmly believe that anyone seeking to deepen her or his spiritual life needs spiritual direction—more than ever!
Why? What is it about the particular demands of our lives that make spiritual direction such a vital and restorative ministry? Let me share a few reasons sifted from my own practice of receiving and offering spiritual direction.
Four Reasons Why We All Need a Spiritual Director
1. Spiritual direction helps us integrate our splintered lives.
Life today is incredibly complicated and trying to keep up is impossible. The speed of life and continual innovation of technology spewing a magnitude of information and options at us causes us to splinter. Our attention is diffused as though being pitched a hundred fast balls in a split second and trying to decide which one to catch and which ones to duck so that we don’t get smashed in the face. Entering spiritual direction, especially over a length of time, helps us SLOW DOWN and pay attention to the recurring themes, threads and patterns that help integrate the disparate parts of our lives. Most importantly, we begin to see God in the fractals.
2. Spiritual direction pulls us toward the center of our being as life draws us away.
We know what it is like to feel the pull of centrifugal force as we go about our days. The draw of work, relationships, technology, social media, going, doing, traveling and play tug at us to move out and expand more and more. Yet, little in life has the same force of power to draw us in toward the center of our being. Spiritual direction focuses our attention on the interior life; on our moods and the movement of God within our desires. We pay attention to emotions as important messengers of the truth that we possess and the potential lies that possess us. Spiritual direction offers the counter-balancing centripetal force, grounding us in our true identity as people completely known and completely loved by God.
3. Spiritual direction awakens us to God’s presence and activity in the midst of suffering.
For as many cures discovered and advances made in our day, an unprecedented number of people are suffering from the most obscure, evasive, un-diagnosable maladies. Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, as well as physical issues stemming from allergies to food and/or the environment are disheartening those who have them and the experts who are looking for causes and cures. These elusive and perplexing conditions often contribute to an unwelcomed spiritual fog and the perceived absence of God. While spiritual direction doesn’t promise a cure or assure the return of distinguishing God’s presence, it does provide loving and supportive companionship. Meeting with a spiritual director, someone who is trained to be a compassionate listener and keep confidence, is a balm to those who need a safe place to suffer honestly and not alone.
4. Spiritual direction acquaints us with the mysterious and often surprising means of God’s formation in our lives.
It’s true that many who begin looking for a spiritual director do so in the second half of life. And it’s also true that many enter into this relationship because the construct of faith they once espoused no longer works for them. Whether toppled by unexplainable adversity or fueled by questions their old paradigm no longer answers, mid-lifers look for someone with whom to process the confusing dynamics of life on a spiritual journey. What their quest for a spiritual director suggests is the fact that we are often too close to what’s happening in us and to us that we need someone with objectivity to help us sort it all through. Through meeting for spiritual direction, many are able to recover their faith as they discover God in the midst of the rubble of their deconstruction and begin to see the mysterious and surprising means by which God forms them into their true-selves-in Christ.
What About You?
If any of these situations describe you and your present spiritual life and longings, I’d recommend that you consider seeking out a spiritual director to help you attune to the movement of God in your life. Spiritual directors actually don’t tell you where to go; they help you discover the Spirit’s direction and leading within you. If you would like to find a spiritual director in your area, let me suggest perusing our list of affiliates at Fall Creek Abbey, or Spiritual Directors International (http://www.sdiworld.org/find-a-spiritual-director) or the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association (https://www.graftedlife.org/spiritual-direction/find-a-spiritual-director). And if you find yourself curious about being trained to offer the ministry of spiritual direction, let me encourage you to reach out to us at Fall Creek Abbey and request to preview the syllabus.