Walk With Me: The Journey of Spiritual Direction
Over the past four years I have found monthly spiritual direction to be one of the most beneficial and catalytic practices in my spiritual life. But it is often very hard to communicate to people what spiritual direction is. It is a practice in which one person meets monthly (usually) to walk along side another person who is committed to spiritual transformation. The spiritual director seeks to help the person discern the presence and the leading of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of deepening in intimacy with God. The real spiritual director is the Holy Spirit. The “director’s” role is to accompany the person on the journey that he/she might have a better sense of how/where/why the Holy Spirit is directing him/her.
Clear as mud, right? Perhaps a story will help illustrate what I mean:
My son, Jonathan, is in eighth grade. He’s taking a reading comprehension class. Reading is something he enjoys, but it’s sometimes hard for him to sort through the information to glean what is most important and what is less significant. He’s still learning to recognize the author’s purpose and sign posts and themes.
He’s just begun reading Corrie Ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, in class. Today as we drove to school, we discussed the second chapter. I asked Jonathan what he thought the author wanted us to get from the chapter. He began telling me the events of the chapter as they unfolded. I interrupted and told him I’d read it. I wanted him to step back and look at the larger picture. He didn’t quite get it.
So, I asked him, “The chapter was called ‘Full House’. Why was it called that?” He thought about it some and said, “Because there were a lot of people living in the house.” I told him that was correct. There was also a lot of activity in the house!
We talked some more and then I asked him, “What clue did Corrie give you related to the title of the book and what’s coming later?” He told me, “She talked about a psalm her father had read that said the Lord is our hiding place.” We went on to discuss this and how Corrie wondered where the hiding place was and what she needed to hide from. We talked about how she couldn’t know then about what was coming and how later in the chapter she shared two stories that helped her understand that God only gives us the knowledge we need and he gives it at just the right time.
So what does this have to do with spiritual direction? A lot! When I spend time with my spiritual director, I sometimes get bogged down by the details of daily life. Her questions and observations often help me to see the connections I miss by looking so closely at things. She helps me see the forest and not just the individual trees.
For example, when I shared with her my review of the year and where I am spiritually and where I sense God inviting me in the future, she made the observation, “A year ago when we started meeting all you had were questions – where did God want you to serve? What should you do? But now as you look at where you are, He’s answered every one!”
It was true! I’d completely missed how amazingly faithful God had been in providing answers to nearly every question I’d had! I left that appointment with a deep sense of God’s presence, blessing, love, and faithfulness. I sensed so deeply that He was with me and for me! It was a rich and significant moment.
Spiritual direction provides me the space to tell the story of my journey with God. But more than that, it invites another person to walk that journey with me and to help me sort through what God is doing in and through me. I need to stop and regularly reflect on what’s going on in my life, but I can still miss the big picture – the forest – and focus on the details – the trees. It needs to be a both/and – both the big and the small, the forest and the trees.
Just as I helped Jonathan to learn how to comprehend the meaning and purpose of chapter two of The Hiding Place, my spiritual director helps me learn how to comprehend the meaning and purpose of my life and God’s activity in it.
Spiritual direction comes in many shapes and sizes – formal, informal, trained, lay, free, at a cost. I have had two spiritual directors – one while I was in Jordan who I would talk to on the phone for an hour each month and one here in Knoxville who I meet with in person for an hour each month. Many times I have no idea what to talk about, but as we wait on the Holy Spirit, inevitably He shows up and I almost always leave encouraged and spurred on toward deeper intimacy with Him.