Spiritual Direction

How is it with your soul? 

When I talk or write about my own experience of spiritual direction and my desire to offer it as a form of ministry, I'm often asked, "What is it?"  So, I wanted to take some space here to describe it for those who're wondering or interested.  Have you had a positive experience with a Spiritual Director?  Do you have a question you'd like to add?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.

What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual Direction has a long standing history within the Christian tradition.  In spiritual direction two individuals gather together in the presence of God to listen, learn and observe where God is working in one’s life. 

Spiritual direction is the practice of coming alongside to assist people in attuning their hearts to the movement of God in their stories. In individual and group sessions, the director provides the gift of holy listening, a sacred practice of welcoming the presence of the other and of God in a contemplative and transformative experience. - Tara Owens
People often come to spiritual direction during times of crises or discernment and choose to continue in direction even after the crisis or decision has passed because it is such a helpful relationship. 

[ ] spiritual directors help people discern the activity of God in their lives. Is God inviting, challenging, forgiving, healing me? Is God calling me to do something new with my life? Is that really God speaking to me through a dream, a passage of scripture, a surprising occasion, another's comments? And how can I deepen my prayer life? Though the questions one brings to a spiritual director may be limitless, there is a central question that the director always must raise, "How is God present and what is God saying to you?" James A. Dodge
Typically a spiritual director:
1. Has gifts of wisdom, discernment and holy listening that have been recognized and affirmed by his or her community of faith.

2. Is meeting with their own director (i.e. is under some form of supervision).
3. Has some form of formal or informal training.
4. Possesses a deep desire to see others growing in their relationship with God and the belief that there is no arena in life in which God is not present and active. 
What is a typical session like?

The word "direction" often evokes images of one person telling another how to live or act. But a good spiritual director is simply present with others, listening, discerning, asking questions, offering insights. Because the Holy Spirit is our true spiritual guide, we must remain attuned to that Spirit. James A. Dodge

A typical spiritual direction session lasts for about an hour.  It may begin with prayer, silence, or the reading of a passage of scripture or poem.  The directee then leads the session by sharing from his or her own life experiences, concerns or observations from daily life.  The director listens prayerfully and helps to open the moment to God's presence as both director and directee look and listen for whatever invitation God might offer. 

A meeting may cover a wide range of topics or be very focused.  There may be much said or little.  Typically, the meeting ends with prayer and making plans for meeting again.  A spiritual director agrees to pray for the directee during the interval between meetings.  Meetings typically take place every two weeks or monthly.

Everything that is shared during a spiritual direction session is confidential.

How does spiritual direction differ from a Discipling relationship or Counseling?

Discipleship relationships tend to focus on teaching and growth in a particular area and involve reading, study and progressive growth over subject matter.  While there may be elements of teaching involved in spiritual direction (ie. concerning prayer styles, devotional materials, etc.), the posture of a spiritual director is not to be out in front teaching or leading, but to be walking with the directee as she or he follows whatever path God has laid out. 

Counseling typically deals with specific areas of woundedness or need and aims to produce healing and restoration so that a person can move on with life.  A counseling relationship typically ends when the initial "problem" has been adequately explored.  While healing and restoration of wounds may and often do occur in spiritual direction, the relationship is not always problem oriented, nor does it end when a specific issue has been addressed.  Spiritual direction is more of a companioning on the journey, through both times of struggle and times of joy. 

If you would like to read more about Spiritual Direction, Tara Owen's page, Anam Cara offers an excellent introduction.   

How much does it cost to meet with a Spiritual Director?

I know Spiritual Directors who charge very little and some who charge very much.  The amount charged usually aligns with the Director's level of experience and training.  Most directors, however, work with a sliding scale so that anyone who is in financial hardship can adjust their payments to something affordable.  I personally charge between $50 and $75 per session as directees are able.   

My Personal Journey

I started meeting with a spiritual director when I was a junior in college.  After a disappointing missions trip, a change in majors and a romantic heartbreak, some of my ideas about how God worked in the world and in individual lives started to come into question - I was having a spiritual crisis in which many of my old views of God seemed to be falling apart. 

During this time, I began driving over an hour each way to meet with a woman who "talked and listened" with people.  It wasn't until we'd been meeting for some time that I heard the term "spiritual director" and realized that this was her gifting. 

Since then I've met with spiritual directors off and on for a number of years.  As a college student, my director helped me formulate a faith that was both flexible and strong enough to endure the challenges of seminary and early married life.  As a pastor, spiritual direction gave me a place to be nurtured and cared for in ways that my own community of faith was unable to provide.  As a mother of young children, meeting with a spiritual director has helped me to continue to be aware of the presence of God in all things.  

What gifting and training do I have?

Beyond any training, I most seriously value the numerous comments I've received concerning the gifts I have in listening, communicating, and discerning.  The affirmation of these gifts by my community of faith and the individuals who have asked to meet with me are primary measures, for me, of my calling to this form of ministry.

Regarding formal training, I completed a Master's of Divinity degree with a strong focus on Pastoral Counseling in 2004 and have four units of Clinical Pastoral Education earned as a Chaplain at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.  I recently graduated from a two year Spiritual Direction training program through Oasis Ministries .  I also continue to meet regularly with my own spiritual director and a peer group of other professionals.

What now?
Do you sense God leading you to seek out a spiritual director? 

The Spiritual Director's International website offers a searchable database of directors and other suggestions for finding someone to meet with locally.  You can also start by contacting a retreat center near you. 

If you are local to the central PA area and interested in meeting with me, you can send me a private message on my Facebook Page.

1 comment:

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