What is a Spiritual Director?
Last week I grinned as I wondered what the IRS agent would think when he or she saw the occupation I typed on my tax form: writer, speaker, spiritual director. What is a spiritual director?
I get that question a lot. It sounds like I spend my time telling people what God wants them to do. Not at all. Spiritual direction is simply “two people listening together to the Holy Spirit.” I mostly ask people questions as the Spirit leads. In fact, spiritual direction is simply having ongoing conversations with someone about their life with God.
Conversation is an underrated vehicle in how our life with God grows but was one of Jesus’ preferred methods of interacting with people: asking them questions, helping them consider their life with God and what they would like to ask God about.
Someone once asked me what they were missing out on by not being in direction and so I asked, “If your life with God is an important part of your life, why would you not want to sit down and talk to someone about it—at least once a month?” It’s always good to have a companion on the journey, a prayerful listener. Often when I repeat back to someone what they said, they’re astounded—I said that? Is that what I really think? Yes, usually, but you didn’t realize it.
Being in spiritual direction increases people’s awareness of God in their life exponentially, even if only in the car on the way to their appointment where they panic for an answer to the question they know I will ask:
How have you been interacting with God lately, or not? It’s a purposely ambiguous question. They can tell me:
- the “what” (what they’ve been interacting with God about),
- the “how” (how that interaction has occurred—praying, reading, rubbing shoulders with others and so on) or
- the “not” (they’re not interacting with God and they don’t want to!).
So in between our meetings (usually monthly), directees are more aware of how they experience God in their lives. They notice what’s happening and say to me when they come, “I’d like to explore this . . .”
One of my favorite things to do as a director is point out to people what they’re getting right. Did you notice that this time when you interacted with X you were eager to help (not criticize)? Did you notice that you didn’t go to that familiar place of fear (or shame or self-pity) this time? Celebrating progress is important because a flourishing life with God (obedience) snowballs. The more you get it, the more you get it!
Now and then directees can’t tell me how they’ve interacted with God, so I use some sideways questions they can usually answer:
- When have you shown yourself grace this month?
- Where have you experienced unexpected joy in a surprising way?
- When have you served someone and thoroughly enjoyed it with no thought of obligation?
- Where did you experience natural or relational beauty that astounded you? Overwhelmed you?
Those are all situations in which we’re experiencing God but we aren’t always aware of it.
Recently a directee introduced me to his congregation saying, “I go talk to her and she untangles me.” I laughed because I don’t do the untangling. The Spirit does it and I get to be on the front row and watch!
Grace and peace,
If you have questions about spiritual direction, please post them on my Facebook Author page.
If you would like to explore the possibility of becoming a spiritual director, please check out this 2 year program that I am so glad to be a part of: http://richmont.edu/academics/school-of-ministry/certificate-in-spiritual-direction/
Application Deadline: June 1
© Jan Johnson – For permission to reprint, Click Here