The first time I met with a spiritual director I was full of nervous energy. I was anticipating what was about to happen, and I was unsure of what I was supposed to bring up during the time. It felt like walking into the unknown, letting go of control, and opening my vulnerable heart. I will never forget how she held my words and thoughts and feelings with such care and compassion. She gently explained her training and her process. She led me through a guided meditation helping me to become present to what was going on inside of me and to become present to God. Then her thoughtful questions companioned me to an unexpected place. A real place. A place I had not given the attention and tears it deserved. God’s Spirit and love were given access to flow like a healing river toward what was most true within me.
It’s amazing how much we hide from God. How much we hide from ourselves. And yet God is the most realistic Being there is. He is in reality. He is Reality. God seems determined to be with us, and I believe He wants to be with us in our actual lives. His love is jealous in the sense that it wants every part of us. It is an all consuming love that wants to touch and interact with every part of our story, in every experience we have, in every emotion that we feel.
In spiritual direction we bring our real selves and our real lives. We let an embodied presence help us invite a transcendent God into those places and help us respond to God’s invitations to us. I love what Thomas Merton says,
“the spiritual director is not to be regarded as a magical machine for solving cases and declaring the holy will of God beyond all hope of appeal, but a trusted friend who, in an atmosphere of sympathetic understanding helps and strengthens us in our groping efforts to correspond with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone is the true Director in the fullest sense of the word.”
In meeting with people, I have noticed that many of us are compelled to “get it right,” to bring up the appropriate things, to obtain whatever experience is “supposed to happen.” The practice of spiritual direction invites us to let that go. I have had many spiritual direction sessions over the years, have been on both sides of the conversation, and I can tell you that the possible directions this space can take are endless. There are times we need to bring to the surface a difficult relationship. There are times we need to confess. There are times we need to savor goodness and let gratitude wash over us. There are memories we need to revisit with Christ. There are emotions stuck in our bodies. There are habits we need to name. There are views of God that are shifting within us. All of this we offer in prayerful expectation and ask together, “Where is God in the midst?”
A spiritual director is not a doctor, listening to your spiritual symptoms and writing you a spiritual prescription. Often we want someone to just tell us what to do. Tell me what step to take, what words to say, what practices to try, and I’ll do it. A good director will not try to fix your spiritual aches and questions. A good director will be with you in them and help you pull on the threads of what you are noticing. A wise director will guide you to interact with God and attend to the unique ways He is drawing and forming you. With that being the foundation, a director sometimes will suggest rhythms and practices that may support you in your journey outside of the session. God does incredible follow-up work outside of the session.
There are also seasons when you may want to make a retreat, to step away from everyday life for a day or more. When spiritual direction is offered as a support to retreat, take it! Contemplative retreat can be a deep dive into your interior world and to have a director to help process all that is coming up is a huge gift.
While attending a silent retreat, I had the joy of meeting Deacon Jim. After about 12 hours of silence, it was time to sit down with him and share what was bubbling up. Through tears, I poured out the worries and insecurities that were flooding my heart. He listened and looked at me with his 80 year old eyes that had seen a lot of life, and he said, “It’s ok, Allison. God loves you.” And I believed him. His words were simple and true. His presence to my pain was a gracious gift.
Spiritual direction helps to bring your journey with God into focus. Your attention is a valuable resource. Businesses want it. Social media wants it. Your calendar demands it. All the people in your life vie for it, but what if God longs for you to bring your fragmented attention to Him. What if His loving attention to you is what your soul needs too.
Spiritual directors are ambassadors of attention. They help us notice where our attention is going and help us bring it back home to God. Spiritual direction gives us space to experience God’s loving attention as the fabric of everything. If you are wanting to learn more or would like to meet with a spiritual director click here and we will get you connected. If you are attending our January Overnight Retreat, you will have the opportunity to experience spiritual direction while there.