Have you asked yourself how you can live a more spiritual life? How can you create space in your heart to draw closer to God in all aspects of your life? Have you wondered how to let the life of Jesus Christ shape your life and change you from within? Do you want more out of your life?
Spiritual direction is one of the practices that help us to see beyond the walls we build which keep us from drawing nearer to God. In this companionship relationship, a director helps the directee (or seeker) to develop a greater awareness of God in their life. It isn’t counseling. It doesn’t strive to heal. It isn’t necessarily about solving a “problem.” Rather the purpose is to listen and perceive God working in one’s life. Amazingly, some are likely to find a greater sense of peace and purpose through this process. And as a result of this spiritual friendship (anam cara) one becomes more open to hearing God’s desire for their lives. The Trappist monk Thomas Merton describes it this way:
“The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what [Christians] call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul. This is an entirely supernatural (spiritual) thing, for the work of rescuing the inner person from automatism belongs first of all to the Holy Spirit.”
At the heart of spiritual direction is seeking to know more about ourselves as much as it is to discover God’s desire for our lives. There is no cookie-cutter answer to who we are in relationship with Jesus Christ. As Author David G. Benner writes: “Being your unique self is something that God desires, because your true self is grounded in Christ. Finding and living out your true self is fulfilling your destiny.”
The spiritual walk takes us from simple knowledge and information about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible. The spiritual walk takes us to a place of knowing God, knowing who God is in our life, and knowing who we are in God’s eyes. The spiritual walk is a heart experience not a head experience. We engage our mind, our emotions, and our will–our soul–and we discover our true self by moving from “knowing objects to knowing people and from knowing people to knowing God.” (JI Packer)
There are many reasons to begin a spiritual direction relationship which has little to do with where one is on the road to discovery and more to do with a desire for something richer in one’s life. For some, the spiritual discovery journey may not actually define their walk as a seeking of God but seeking to see where they fit in the world. For others, they are unsure that they will find God, if there is a God, on their journey. Some have seen a twinkling of God in their lives and have a thirst for more. And still others have seen the results of an active relationship of God in the lives of friends and family and they want more of what they have. Someone else has hit a dry spell in their spiritual walk and may feel abandoned or removed from God and they want to restore the relationship.
Somewhere in the spiritual direction process, one is likely to find a new identity—one that is grounded in God. They are likely to feel more fulfilled in their lives and perhaps a new direction for the walk forward. New passions and vocations may emerge or sleeping passions may be revived with a sense of excitement. We may come to see ourselves differently, as one loved by God and uniquely gifted to serve. As Merton wrote: “If I find Him, I will find myself and if I find my true self, I will find Him.
Seek out a trained spiritual director in whom you trust and begin that journey of deeper discovery. If you are hesitant, here are some resources that might help you decide that you are worthy of this extra effort to be all that you can be while walking with God.
The Gift of Being Yourself, David G. Benner
Listening Hearts, Suzanne G. Farman
Spiritual Direction, Henri Nouwen
The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer