What is a spiritual director?
- A person who has a continuing hunger for intimacy with God.
- A person who has an ability to forgive others at great personal loss.
- A person who has a lively sense that God alone can satisfy the longings of the human heart.
- A person who has a deep satisfaction in prayer.
- A person who has a realistic assessment of personal abilities and limitations.
- A person who has a fundamental freedom from boasting about spiritual accomplishments.
- A person who has a demonstrated ability to live out the demands of life patiently and wisely.
What is Spiritual Direction?
- Spiritual direction is an interpersonal relationship in which we learn how to grow, live, and love in the spiritual life.
- Spiritual direction involves a process through which one person helps another person understand what God is doing and saying.
- Discernment is a crucial gift in the work of spiritual direction.
- In spiritual direction there is absolutely no domination or control.
- The spiritual director/mentor/pastor guides another in spiritual things through the spiritual world by spiritual means.
- God has ordained that there be spiritual directors/mentors/pastors among his people. This is the structure of love in practice.
- Supremely, spiritual directors/mentors/pastors are persons who have a sense of being “established” in God. Otherwise they are too dangerous to be allowed into the soul space of others.
Seeking God Together
I know that many of you wonder what Spiritual Direction is and why I would want to be certified as a director – this article explains it very well. Each session is different according to the practices of the director…i.e., the lighting of a candle, or playing soft music in the background, or reading Scripture. While this is a good example, what is consistent is the asking of questions and the listening. It is amazing what the Spirit can say and do if we will quiet ourselves enough to listen. To have someone listening with us, and praying as we listen, opens wonderful doors of wisdom and insight. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. This is a very meaningful part of my life, and definitely important to my Spiritual Growth.
– Betty Southard
A first look at spiritual direction
I was very nervous the first time I went for spiritual direction. I had never done anything like this before. I wasn’t even sure I knew what spiritual direction was. And I’d never met Ed, the spiritual director I found through a brochure someone gave me. We arranged to meet at a historic church near the campus of the University of Wisconsin. As I walked up the steps, I wondered how I had gotten myself into this.
Ed met me in the hallway of the church. We went into a large, Tudor-style parlor and sat in two wingback chairs. I thought, This is like a scene from a novel. Ed looked more like a college professor than the retired minister that he was. He even had a briefcase; he opened it and took out a doily and a small candle. This seems very Roman Catholic. What if I don’t know what to do? As Ed lit the candle, he said “This is to remind us that we aren’t alone.” Good thing. I guess he means that God is here with us.
Then Ed introduced himself to me and asked me a few questions about myself. He read from the book of Isaiah: “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you.” Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. Ed said he liked that passage. I said I did too. Then he asked me a question about my relationship with God. I don’t remember the question or my answer. What I do remember is that when I had finished what I wanted to say, Ed just sat there, waiting and listening for more. This is different, I thought. People don’t usually wait for me like that. They usually just talk more. But Ed waited and looked at me. What I am supposed to do now?
We sat in the quiet for several minutes. I wonder if Jesus looked at people the way Ed is looking at me. I don’t remember who broke the silence, or what we said, but I do know that after every question Ed asked me, he waited. And waited. When I left that first spiritual direction session, I felt a deeper peace than I had experienced for a long, long time. Perhaps, I thought, we really weren’t alone in that room. God was indeed with us.
I went home to the more familiar experiences of my life, to my own stresses and anxieties, and I realized that God was still with me. Before my meeting with Ed (and the Spirit of God), I certainly knew that God was with me. I knew that God had made me and sustained me. I knew that God promised peace. I knew all of that. But I had forgotten. I was like Jacob in the Old Testament. His life was full of very stressful circumstances. One night he had a dream where he met with God. When he woke up, he said, “Surely the lord is in this place—and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16). That’s what my first spiritual direction session did for me. It reminded me that God was in my life. I had not been aware.
Awareness of God is one of the gifts of spiritual direction. The apostle Paul said in the New Testament that God is not far from each one of us. In fact, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28). But on my own I cannot always perceive God in my life. My spiritual eyes are clouded by the stresses, the fears, and the unsolvable problems that are in the forefront of my awareness. Since that first meeting with Ed, I have been in dozens of spiritual direction sessions, with Ed and with others. As God listens to me, through my spiritual director and through silence, I begin again to listen to God.