My spiritual director and I spent most of our first session getting acquainted. Her demeanor was very pleasant, and we immediately discovered one thing in common – we both grew up on farms.
She gave me a handout explaining her conception of what spiritual direction is and isn’t. It is NOT therapy or counseling, primarily informative or advisory, or a relinquishing of personal responsibility, she said.
Spiritual direction is a partnership in which one Christian helps another grow in a personal relationship with God, her handout said. It encourages us to “recognize, explore and unpack areas of darkness and unfreedom” that get in the way of this relationship. Ultimately, it can empower people to experience “greater interior freedom, deeper joy, a more integrated life” and more intimate relationships with God, self and others.
Spiritual direction does not focus only on the “soul,” but instead reflects the Hebrew notion of a “whole person” – body, mind and spirit – as reflected in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May He preserve you whole and entire, spirit, mind and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And perhaps most important to me, it is not “directive” in the sense of telling a person what to do.
My first assignment, which she had already given me over the phone prior to our initial session, was to answer the question, “Where am I right now?” What got me to the place of seeking spiritual direction?
I shared a brief synopsis of my reasons: the transition in focus and priorities prompted by my retirement, the internal tug-of-war over my own values brought on by the increasing divisiveness and polarization in our society, the “time is limited” epiphany that comes with being 60-something and losing loved ones, and the questions about faith and a church’s true purpose raised by reading the Bible from cover to cover and serving on my church’s evangelism committee.
I also described the chaos that seems to permeate my life, stemming from my own challenges with organizing skills, my difficulty saying “no” to demands on my time, and my penchant for getting sucked into other people’s dramas. “I feel like I’m buried in STUFF!” I told her. “I live in a beautiful home, but it’s always a mess.”
She listened to this without negative judgment – at least none that I was able to detect, and asked me, “Have you ever questioned the existence of God?” She didn’t flinch when I said, “Oh yeah. More than once.”
So far, so good.
My spiritual director explained how the process will work. Since I’m a writer and journal during my morning meditation sessions, I can write my thoughts on a series of suggested topics, if I choose. Or, since I’m a rather “visual” person, I can use imagery to describe what I’m experiencing at any given time. She will also suggest resources to read.
At first we will meet every couple of weeks, a period during which we decide whether we are compatible and can work well together. Gradually we will move to meeting once a month.
She ended the session by giving me a variety of suggestions for homework assignments to help get me started, allowing me to choose which ones I’d find most helpful.
And thus begins my journey.