what is it?
Since the Church began, various ways of deepening one’s faith in God have been in existence. The early Church Fathers focused on an examination of the heart, while others have focused on one’s outpouring of service to others. Still, more recently, some have looked at direction as a therapeutic approach. All in all, spiritual direction provides an avenue for a relationship with God based on intimacy, trust and grace and helps one respond to Jesus’ words in John 15 to grow in their walk with the Lord.
Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. I am the vine. You are the branches. Remain in me, and I in you, and you will bear much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
John 15 brings us to the most fundamental component of one’s relationship with Him. We are to simply abide, to be attentive and responsive to Jesus’ leading and guidance. Direction helps believers create a place for this abiding, where one can find peace, discernment and intimacy. Spiritual direction is the ongoing practice of a directee meeting regularly with a trained spiritual director. Here, the directee shares events and circumstances of one’s life since the last meeting as the spiritual director listens together with him or her for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Direction commonly occurs on a monthly basis, though some may meet on a biweekly or even weekly basis.
Simply stated, direction is “help with the development of one’s relationship with God” (Barry and Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction). This help seeks an interactive and vital relationship with the Lord, and so the Lord is very much a part of the process of direction. Herein lies spiritual direction’s most fundamental difference from therapy. While therapy may consider one’s relationship with the Lord, it is not necessarily or fundamentally concerned with one’s walk with the Lord. Direction is primarily focused on one’s relationship with the Lord.
A spiritual director is one who has the skills of “empathetic listening, paying attention, affirming, assisting in clarification, raising questions when the directee wants them, and helping the directee to recognize the affective attitudes that influence his or her attitude to God” (Barry and Connolly). Urban T. Holmes suggests that a spiritual director is “to serve as a friend of someone’s soul. It is to share in another’s particular pilgrimage [where…] I seek to help a person identify his or her internal experience and relate it to the Gospel and its explication in the Christian tradition. This requires me to be informed by reading the Scriptures and the scriptural masters…. To be a spiritual friend one must have detachment, discretion and discernment, with all that prepares for those gifts. Spiritual companionship is a gentle art, demanding a willingness to listen as if one had a third ear attuned to the inner self” (from Urban Holmes’ Spirituality for Ministry).
who is it for?
Many in the Protestant evangelical stream of Christianity are emphasizing the great need for spiritual directors in our churches and ministries today. One of them is Larry Crabb, who argues that:
“spiritual direction is an idea whose time has come. Its practice, of course, is as ancient as man. And since our Lord visited earth then returned home, the presence of His Spirit in every believer’s life has only heightened both the opportunity and the importance of spiritual direction. For two thousand years tagging along in response to God’s initiative in people’s lives – discerning the ongoing movement of the Holy Spirit in the inner depths of the soul and opening the path to the interior world where the Spirit speaks most clearly – has been the valued work of a spiritual director, seen as essential among serious Christians.”1
As disciples of Jesus, we are learners of the Holy Spirit’s work. Our English word disciple is derived from the New Testament Greek word “μαθητής” (mathetes), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus, meaning “a learner”. Richard Foster argues that the work of spiritual formation moves us to an ever-continuing state of learning. He says that formation of our hearts before God is “’a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time.’ As apprentices of Jesus we are learning, always learning how to live well; love God well; love our spouse well; raise our children well; love our friends and neighbors—and even our enemies—well; study well; face adversity well; run our businesses and financial institutions well; form community life well; reach out to those on the margins well; and die well—ars moriendi. And, as we learn how to live well, we share with others what we are learning. This is the structure of love for the building up of the body of Christ.”
As much as spiritual direction is for those who desire to grow in their faith and learn more about Way of Jesus, it is most definitely for evangelical believers.
how do you start?
For a no-cost, 15-minute phone or Skype conversation to explore the possibilities of spiritual direction with me, please email me at david [at] tli.cc.
If you sense God calling you to meet with a spiritual director, I’d first recommend that you pray about it–find out if God is calling you to move into a deeper walk with Him. Ask Him to confirm to you your desire to meet with a director. While I don’t want this to sound pious, our work together can only be helpful if God really is behind it and blesses it.
If the confirmation you continue to have is positive, let’s talk. You can download a PDF document of my initial intake form in preparation for our first appointment (To download a free copy of Adobe Portable Document Format Viewer, visit www.adobe.com).
what does it cost?
A typical 50-minute spiritual direction session costs in the range of $55-105 (scholarships are available). If you are interested in meeting for direction, please feel free to contact me for a phone or Skype conversation to explore the possibility of meeting for spiritual direction using the contact form below. I look forward to hearing from you.
(All information collected will be held privately and not sold to any third-party lists.).