What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual Direction is a ministry that assists individuals (or groups) to attend to the presence and activity of God in their life. Spiritual directors are companions who come alongside another person as she or he attends to their relationship with God. The director acts as a facilitator, always encouraging the other to bring their joys, sorrows, questions and longings in conversation with God. A spiritual director will listen attentively, ask questions, lead devotional exercises (i.e. lectio divina) and, if and when appropriate, offer feedback or advice. All the while the director pays close attention to the Holy Spirit to discern, together with the other person, the work of God in his or her life. A person receiving this ministry comes ready to share, insofar as she or he is comfortable, matters related to their relationship with the Triune God.
What does a typical meeting look like?
A typical meeting lasts for about an hour. Depending on the director, the meeting may begin with prayer, a period of silence, scripture reading and/or a spiritual reflection exercise as a way of entering into God’s presence. The remainder of the meeting is relatively unstructured and filled with conversation on any topic relating to one’s life with God. Again, the goal is to attend to the presence and activity of God in one's life. Common topics which may be discussed in a spiritual direction meeting include: devotional rhythms, hearing and discerning God’s voice, hindrances in the journey (i.e., guilt, shame, fear, doubt), past relationships, images of God (both good and bad), life direction, hopes, joys, longings, sorrows, vocation and calling, etc.
Spiritual Direction is NOT...
1.) Counselling: Although spiritual direction sometimes overlaps with counselling and may cover similar topics (i.e., forgiveness), spiritual direction is not counselling. Spiritual directors are not trained therapists and are not equipped to deal with a person’s mental or psychological health. Though spiritual direction focuses on a person’s spiritual health (which is why it is also called ‘soul care’) the director is not an expert, only a companion. Spiritual directors work in conjunction with other health care professionals.
2.) Mentoring: Mentoring takes place when someone who is experienced in a certain area gives hands-on training to a person who is less skilled in the same area. Spiritual direction happens over dialogue, not through hands-on ministry training. Spiritual directors are themselves disciples, always learning and always listening to the great Teacher, the Holy Spirit.
3.) Professional: Although spiritual directors receive training and are accredited by institutions which provide accountability and legal support, they are not professionals. They do not give out advice as professionals but offer their experience and faith stories only insofar as it may help another.
What should you look for in a spiritual director?
Spiritual directors are not experts or gurus but fellow travellers. They may or may not be further along in their journey than those they meet with. A good spiritual director is not someone who has all the answers but one who is pursuing Christ Jesus and is attending to their own inner life with God. They are knowledgeable in the ways of the soul and understand the dynamics of spiritual growth. They understand the seasons of life and the spiritual practices and rhythms that are appropriate to each season. They are good listeners. A good spiritual director is like a seasoned mid-wife; they understand timing and do not try to make anything happen prematurely. They are not easily offended since they know their own patterns of sin, triggers and weaknesses.