On Spiritual Direction

LabyrinthSpiritual Direction is something close to my heart. It’s something we generally don’t talk about much, unless someone is in the process of formation for ordination. That’s a shame because it is such a wonderful, helpful practice, one that the experience of countless Christians throughout the centuries has proven to help spur a person’s spiritual life to further growth and development.

Spiritual direction at root is about relationship: the relationship between the directee and the spiritual director helps deepen the directee’s relationship with God. The Center for Religious Development in Cambridge puts it like this: “We define Christian spiritual direction as help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.”

More and more people are discovering the power of spiritual direction. Whereas once, you might have only heard it talked about in monasteries or seminaries, now many people—from all sorts of spiritual traditions and church backgrounds—are seeking out spiritual directors to help them stay in touch with the spiritual part of their lives. Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message version of the Bible, has even advocated for it in books and articles.

I started spiritual direction about 14 years ago as I began discerning my vocation. There have been times when I’ve been without a spiritual director, but I try to sure that those periods are short—because life is just too complex without a companion to remind us that God is always in the midst of it all.

My monthly hour with my spiritual director is something I look forward to, and it’s even more helpful after having a spiritual director for a couple years. By then, my spiritual director has really gotten to know me, to know my tendencies and hang-ups, to know my strengths and the areas I continual need to work on.

It’s hard for me to describe spiritual direction because it’s ever-changing and the only constant is God’s presence and the relationship between me and my spiritual director. The nature of spiritual direction changes because life is so fluid and circumstances change so often.

Sometimes our conversation is encouraging, helping me to find signs of God’s handiwork in difficult circumstances. Sometimes the session is more prodding, challenging me to grow more or make more time for God despite how busy I might think I am. And, sometimes the session is exciting, beckoning me to try new ways of praying or discover God through new opportunities.

People explore spiritual direction for different reasons at different times. Some do it because they have to as part of their formation for ministry. Others do it because they recognize the importance of spirituality and want to grow closer to God. And it’s not uncommon for people to start spiritual direction because they’ve hit one of those rough patches in life and need some help finding God again.

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