Why Spiritual Direction?
I have been asked this question many times, especially since having decided to retire from pastoral ministry in the local church and move into the realm of Spiritual Direction for the local church. At first, as my journey into full time ministry unfolded I thought, quite naively, that seminary would provide the avenue toward pastoral ministry that would allow me to be all I could be for God and God’s people. Both as an individual growing in Christ Jesus and as a pastor helping others do the same. All I wanted, as do the great majority of pastors and Christians who devote their lives to God and God’s people, is to “Love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love others, all others as I love myself, just as Christ loves me (Luke 10:27: Matthew 22: 37-39; John 15:12,17). As much as I loved my seminary experience and the fine education, Asbury Theological Seminary provided, for me, I quickly realized that an M.Div., was not enough. Something was missing in this training when it came to ways in which I could carry out this deep desire of growing in Christ and helping others do the same. So I sought out to be educated further in discipline of Pastoral Counseling. My reasoning being that a better understanding of the human soul, emotions, and cognitive issues from a Christian perspective was what may be missing. Having then graduated with my MAPC from Asbury, I found that my seminary experience combined with training in soul care were a beautiful match, which greatly complimented one another. However, there was still something missing, even after having learned many wonderful counseling techniques and theories.
What I discovered was that neither of these program, as valuable, wonderful, exciting and worthwhile they were, they never taught me how to just “be”, and to help others just “be” with God. I learned a lot about doing, and how to do. I learned a lot of dualistic, right ways and wrong ways, to be a pastor and specifically a Methodist pastor, but I was never taught to just be, to just listen, to just rest in God. I discovered, as I began to read about Spiritual Direction and as I moved through the process of being in spiritual direction myself, and eventually being trained as a spiritual director that this simple being in God’s presence in a contemplative manner, could be found in the practice of Spiritual Direction. It was during the completion of a three year certification in Spiritual Direction at St. Thomas University that I fully discovered what this was so. In spiritual direction I learned to just be with God and to help others do the same, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide, teach, heal and reveal God’s presence and Love. As a spiritual director I do not need to be the answer man. I do not need to put out any fires, nor am I called to depend on my own intellect and give advice.
“The director is not to be regarded as a magical machine for solving cases and declaring the holy will of God beyond all hope of appeal, but a trusted friend who, in an atmosphere of sympathetic understanding helps strengthen us in our groping efforts to correspond with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone is the true director in the fullest sense of the word.”
Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation, p. 5
Spiritual friends help others to be aware of who they are, as God’s image bearers, in Christ Jesus. They also help others to better know Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, God with us. In this the Spiritual Director is one who companions others to better allow the things done to flow directly from the experience being with God, by God’s grace, in Christ Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual direction is all about surrendering to God so as to Spirit led. In spiritual direction one learns to better listening to God’s still gentle voice, so as to know better who we are and to better know God with us. To become aware of Love, purified by Love, Guided or illumined by Love, to be united with Love and to become kenotic vessels through whom Love flows, is let go, without resistance into the world around us is the ultimate goal of spiritual direction.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, NRS
Along the way I have come to the fervent belief that if devout Christians enter competent into spiritual direction , with some becoming competent spiritual directors themselves this could lead to healthier, more Christ-centered churches that are attractive to a world that is decidedly noisy and far from knowing who they are and knowing God with them. It seems to me that the local church could much benefit from spiritual direction as a practice that can come alongside, and complement the work of the pastor and in some instances Christian counselors in the local church. Through spiritual direction I know that together we can find
new and deeper ways to love God, love others and love self as never before. In so doing we can become what Merton calls, “trusted friends” who help others see, know, serve, glorify and enjoy God who is with us and is in us. In this we truly can allow our, “groping efforts to correspond with the grace of the Holy Spirit.”