No, this isn’t a classified advertisement for spiritual direction, nor is it a call for reader feedback on how I might proceed in my spiritual life. Instead, I thought I would share with you a little bit about a journey I’ve recently begun; a journey that has started with the quest to find a spiritual director.
It’s been about a decade now since I first heard the term spiritual director. What a concept, I thought then, having a spiritual guide. Around that time, several friends had sought out spiritual direction. At transitional times in their lives, they desired spiritual help in moving through those life changes. I’d also read about spiritual direction in a book that advised the practice to those seeking a satisfying spiritual life. It sounded like a fabulous idea — for someone other than me. My family was in the midst of a growth spurt, and I was knee-deep in earthly, motherly concerns. It didn’t seem like the right time to take on what seemed like a lofty ideal of enlisting the aid of a spiritual mentor.
I sometimes wonder how my life might have unfolded if I’d have acted on this idea sooner, and yet, perhaps it wasn’t the right time. Besides, unnecessary regret seems a waste of energy. The fact is, now I do feel a strong tug to find someone qualified to help me discern my spiritual direction. It’s not so much about being in transition as simply a deeper craving to be certain of God’s will. Perhaps I’ve lived long enough now, at 40, to realize that my will and God’s will are not always in sync. I’m ready to work on developing my discernment capabilities, having been around enough to know that living inside my own head, relying only on my experiences and thoughts, has never been and will never be enough.
I might explain it better relating it to the writing life — or any long-term pursuit, for that matter. It wasn’t until I began seeking out writing mentors that my writing truly began to grow in ways I’d always hoped it could. It wasn’t until I began seeking out those who’d been trained, who’d walked the walk I yearned to walk, that my goals seemed remotely within reach. So why wouldn’t I want the same for my spiritual life, when it’s every bit as — no, even more — important to me than my writing. (Though, I would argue that very often, the two cross paths, and when they do, I’m the most content, especially when I feel God at the helm.)
Though I don’t know that I’ve ever read an official definition of spiritual direction, I have a loose one in my head. To me, a spiritual director is not a counselor, though he or she might function in that capacity from time to time. It is not a guru set on leading us to the literal mountaintop so that we might become enlightened. It is someone qualified to listen, to hear the history of a spiritual journey in progress, and to offer guidance on how a spiritual path might be laid out for the next phase of life. We can pray mightily and try to hear God’s voice, but the truth is, God often speaks through the voices of others. Of course, even in this we must be careful so we know it’s truly God’s voice we’re hearing. But I find that so much of my spiritual life has unfolded in this way — through hearing and seeing God in those around me.
Recently, I met with someone who may well become my permanent spiritual director. I felt very good about the meeting. I felt like I was heard, and at the end of the session, I was given an assignment that seemed very well suited to me. I was asked to keep a journal of daily "themes." In his wisdom, the spiritual director knew that as a busy mother, I might not want to keep a detailed journal, but rather, something simple to sum up the gist of my day. We’ll see what it produces at our next visit. I like the idea of an assignment, though. It’s more likely to keep me focused, to help me remember that I am on a journey, not just once a month when we meet, but daily. The meetings are simply a check-in to see how things are going, and a time for the spiritual director to serve in the capacity of translator — helping me to interpret events in my life as spiritual signs that may be offering clues of where I’m meant to be heading. And of course, prayer is a huge part of it. Beginning and ending the sessions in prayer helps me feel confident I am not just veering off on my own accord. God, with the help of my guide, is leading the way.
I look forward to finding out what’s next, and if I feel it might benefit others, sharing a few pieces of what I’m learning. In the meantime, let me ask this: Have you ever had a spiritual director? If so, was it (or has it been) a good experience for you? If yes, why, and if not, why?