Noticing God at work in our lives.
I am preparing myself mentally for my final trip to Chicago for the last of my classes in Spiritual Direction at Mundelein Seminary. The mental preparation isn’t for the intellectual or even spiritual rigors that await us. No, it’s for the bitter cold – last time I was there in a February it was 10F!
So, what have been the fruits of our efforts through thick and thin? Well, I can certainly say that the course has brought me personally closer to the Lord and taught me something more of His ways. It has helped me be much more patient with my prayer, to not demand or even expect instant results from storming heaven. Now, I’m much more able to put stuff before the Lord and then leave it in His hands, trusting that He has heard me and is responding even if I am not particularly conscious of what that response is.
I think I have also learnt more about what Spiritual Direction is and what it is not. Let’s begin with what it isn’t. In a way the title “Spiritual Direction” isn’t particularly helpful because it implies that one person is going to direct, instruct, order and the other person is going to listen and carry out a prescription. But it is the traditional term and so we continue to use it, while trying to be aware of the limitations of the expression.
A good Spiritual Director never orders or commands or provides formulae. He or she may well suggest sources which may be helpful to the person being ‘directed,’ but if can never be an order. Successful Spiritual Direction relies on the complete freedom of the directee to accept or reject suggestions and interpretations.
That said, what then is Spiritual Direction? Perhaps it is best described and a three-way process involving the directee, the director and God. And the measure of success is the extent to which the director is able to fade into the background and allow the directee to experience God’s gentle touch in their inner being. During direction the Director is constantly praying to the Holy Spirit to work through him or her to allow the Directee to sense what that same Spirit is doing in their lives. So the director may ask, “how does it feel when you experience this anger, or this joy, or this fear?” and then follow with something like “how would it be to just sit with this anger, joy, fear and allow God to touch it and heal, deepen, calm it?” And then the Director would just allow the Directee to sit and be with God as long as that is comfortable for them. Finally the Director might help the Directee to unpack the experience, thus enabling him or her to deepen their trust and confidence in the God Who does indeed come to us and speak to our hearts.
Obviously, I can’t give a detailed description of the dynamics of Spiritual Direction in this short a space, and I certainly don’t claim to be an expert by any manner of means. But if any of would like to ‘put a toe in the water,’ just give me a call in the office and we can set up a time to get together. I hope I don’t need to mention that there’s no charge!! Thank you for trusting me as your pastor and if I can be of any further help in deepening your faith experience, it will be a great joy to me.