Discovering Spiritual Direction
As a spiritual director, I'm confronted with one question on a regular basis:
What in the world is spiritual direction?
Glad you asked. Here's my elevator speech:
Spiritual direction is compassionately and prayerfully listening to another well so that they may listen well to God's Spirit.
When it comes to the schematics of spiritual direction, that is a longer conversation and I'd like to recommend a resource that would help with the discussion.
Gordon T. Smith's new book Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Direction (IVP, 2014) is one of the most insightful, concise, and engaging works I've read on the topic of spiritual direction in some time.
Smith is good to point out distinctions and foundations within spiritual direction, rooting it in sound theology as well as the practices of the Christian community.
In clarifying the role of the spiritual director, Smith states:
Many come for direction eager to have the director tell them what to do. They want guidance; perhaps they even want someone else, who they see as older and wiser, to hear God for them. But the wisdom of spiritual direction is precisely that we refuse to stand between God and the person who so needs to hear God for himself, for herself. (30)
Smith walks through the theological foundations of direction, the importance of prayer to direction, and the way the spiritual direction relationships play out on a practical level. Speaking from his own experience of direction, he is extremely helpful in sharing insights like the following from his spiritual director:
"Gordon, God has all of eternity to transform you into the image of his Son; the question is, where is God at work and what is the priority of the Spirit in your life right now?" (31)
If you already have a foundation in spiritual direction and have read widely in this area, Smith's book may not yield many new insights but I found that even after reading widely there are nuggets within this book that encourage practicing directors on their journey, such as the following:
One of the gifts of spiritual direction is to help us sift through all of this guilt and foster our capacity to discern a key question: While we are certainly not all that we are ultimately called to be, specifically where is God calling us to turn now, at this point in our lives? (54)
I recommend this book highly, and I also recommend seeking a spiritual director if you are in that stage of your spiritual growth where you feel you are searching for God in the midst of the circumstances of every day. Feel free to comment below with your email address if you'd like to set up a direction session or if you'd like more resources on the practice and availability of spiritual direction in your area.