AN INVITATION TO SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
The bitter winds of winter strip the brittle, paper-thin leaves off the oaks outside the window. The terrain is tumbled over with branches, turned treacherous from the regular and relentless storms scouring these hills and valleys. If not for the promise of spring — the hope of warming sun, calmer winds and gentle rain all this would seem a cemetery, devoid of hope, final in its pronouncement of death.
Yet, still we hope. You hope. You have hope because you are reading this. You long for the restoration, the rejuvenation of spring. In your heart, your body, your relationships, your world.
Not too good at waiting for it, though, are we? Instead of rooting in deeper — centering into the place where waiting is a strength, a place of shelter from the storms, a place where receiving is natural and unearned — instead of abiding, we do anything and everything but.
We are relentlessly driven by fear and ambition, the demand to never lay fallow, never have a dry leaf, never show our ravaged roots. We spray-paint our deadness with artificial flesh-tones and tape wax fruit to our branches. We applaud the constant dog-and-pony parades while inwardly forming ulcers and aneurysms. We never find spring because we are always denying our winter.
And I really don’t have any answers for you. At least not as it relates to the desire to be successful, or live a significant life. I have no way around the pain, the questions, the dissatisfactions and devastations of divorce and disease, loneliness and accusations, abuse and abandonment.
All I have is a promise I am trying to believe, a story I am trying to live into, a presence I am learning to be known by.
Mystery? Got lots of that.
Pragmatic solutions? Successful strategies for maximized living? Distraction and anesthesia for your pain? I’m not your guy.
However, if you are looking for someone to walk along side, to share in your questions, to help form enough space, give ear to the deep things, wrestle with the waiting, maybe I can help. But also maybe not. Who knows? I’m not in control. I guarantee nothing. Not my job.
What I do have is a practice, that of a spiritual director, that allows me to come alongside others to help them find a healthy orientation. A spiritual director encourages but doesn’t cheerlead, reflects but doesn’t necessarily confront; offers context but not necessarily counsel, gives opportunity but not necessarily instruction. At best, a Spiritual Director helps give the direction that the title implies without coercing or managing. There is no threat or bribe involved; the relationship, by necessity, is one of absolute free association. Rather than cheapen the relationship or keep it superficial, it allows for depth and sincerity of a special kind.
“It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
AGREEMENT FOR SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
None of us were created for isolation. All of us need the counsel, insight and support of others. This comes in many forms: families, churches, focused gatherings, work groups and close friendships. A very special relationship specifically set apart for the purpose of helping to recognize and understand the movement and meaning of God in our lives is that of purposeful spiritual direction.
But let’s be clear from the start. God is the one doing the directing. The role of the person recognized as the spiritual director is that of listener, discerner, questioner and confidant; in this specific relationship, not acting as a psychologist, counselor or pastor. The conversations will be held in the strictest of confidence, and nothing will be divulged unless required by law or mutual consent. The relationship is to be a place of freedom, exploration and honest response.
This relationship is also purposeful and structured. It is purposeful in its schedule and commitments and structured as a way of recognizing the value of the ultimate goal. The length of relationship is to be established early on, but may be extended or shortened as it progresses. A fee is charged as a way of designating value and securing commitment.
Finally, all of this is undertaken with a humble recognition of the nature and character of God and our own limitations as humans; we are seeking to recognize, understand and respond to the infinite. Any ideas of manipulation, bargaining or unrealistic expectations must be abandoned.