What is Spiritual Direction?
Appointments are scheduled usually once a month for an hour. All of your life is material for Spiritual Direction as you seek to become more aware of God’s presence in your life. The agenda is what the “directee” brings; and will include prayer, images of God, finding the sacred in the ordinary, questions of faith, concerns about the Church, but also your relationships with others, what worries you, grieves you, frightens you, or gives you cause for joy and celebration. The director helps you to listen to your life with all the care that it deserves. Though practiced in the Church for centuries, Spiritual Direction is increasingly sought by people in contemporary society who desire a deeper intimacy with God and someone to companion them on the journey. The tradition has consistently defined the practice of Spiritual Direction as an art that recognizes the Holy Spirit as the true director. The director stands in service of the relationship between God and the directee.
Direction and Therapy: Some Differences
It should be noted that there are distinctions between Spiritual Direction and therapy or counseling. In general it might be said that therapy and counseling deal primarily with problem areas of one’s life and attempt to bring healthy resolution to issues. Spiritual Direction is concerned with finding and responding to God (in the midst of pain or disorder as well as in the rest of life). Problem/issue solving is not the primary focus of direction.
Finding and Choosing a Director
It is important to pray about finding a director, asking God to guide your search and to open your eyes to the possibilities available to you. Accompanying this prayer you may choose to explore some avenues already known to you for persons whose spirituality speaks to you. It will probably take some time to find the right person for you.
In the direction session, it is important for there to be a mutual sense that the potential for open, honest, clear communication is present and that there is a reverence for the unique way God is working in the individuals involved. Coupled with this is a mutual dependence upon the Spirit at work in the relationship. Human specifics of age, gender, denomination and so forth, may assume more importance at one time in a person’s life than at another. However, it is only necessary that the two persons experience the kind of ‘fitness’ that allows them to be free for their common purpose together without undue attention to their relationship. It is helpful after several meetings to evaluate how things are going. After that, periodic evaluations are encouraged so that what was begun as a right thing does not continue past its time.
Spiritual Directors may be found among persons of many denominations, laity, clergy and persons in religious communities. They may be married or single and may seek their livelihood in a variety of occupations. It is most important that the director is responding to an invitation from God to participate in this ministry, and that the gift of direction has been called forth by others, and that the director has sought to enhance this gift and sharpen the necessary skills.
The primary responsibility of the director is to pray for the directee. The director never speaks for God or presumes to know God’s will for the person, but always gives that person the space and freedom necessary to discover the voice of God arising from within.
It is assumed that the director is taking seriously his/her relationship with God through intentional prayer, attention to solitude and regular Spiritual Direction.
Favorite Metaphor: Spiritual Director as Midwife
The baby will be born whether the midwife gets there or not. Similarly, our relationship with God happens with or without a spiritual director. But the spiritual director, like a midwife, offers an objective viewpoint, experience with others in the birthing process, and occasional gentle suggestions as the process unfolds - sometimes about breathing, pushing or waiting – as God leads each person uniquely. (Catherine Powell)
Much of the above is borrowed from The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, Bethesda, MD.