How to Prepare to Meet with Your Spiritual Director

How to Prepare to Meet with Your Spiritual Director

Let’s imagine you’ve made the plunge, you’ve made meeting with a spiritual director a regular rhythm of your life. You’ve found a director. You’ve met for the first time and decided they’re a good fit and you want to continue meeting.

Now what? What’s next?

Henri Nouwen writes, “The goal of spiritual direction is spiritual formation—the ever-increasing capacity to live a spiritual life from the heart…. Almost anything that regularly asks us to slow down and order our time, desires, and thoughts to counteract selfishness, impulsiveness, or hurried fogginess of mind can be a spiritual discipline.”

While certainly not necessary, it can be helpful to carve out some margin to consider what you want to cover when you meet with your spiritual director. That could look like spending some time scanning your journal, or it could look like turning the radio down in the car on the drive to the meeting.

Here are some ways you can get ready for a meeting with your spiritual director.

Prayer

We want to be mindful of not out-sourcing our spiritual life, our listening life, our prayer life. A spiritual director is not a mediator. They are not Moses, coming down from the mountain with a word for you. A director is a partner in listening with you.

We must listen. We must make ourselves available to God. The agenda for the meeting comes from the Holy Spirit, from the ways the Spirit provokes, nudges, inspires, stretches us, not from the director.

We need daily patterns of prayer. Paul says, “Never stop praying” (1 Thess 5:17). This can look like a regular rhythm such as the daily office. It can be habits like talking to God in your car or while you brush your teeth or before meals. God is unlikely to ignore the sincere prayer, “Show me what you’re rearranging inside me. Show me where you’re at work in the world around me.”

Remember that the role of the director is like a midwife, helping give you words for the life that God shaping within you. When I begin a meeting with a directee, we start with reading the daily psalm. We give God the first word. Then we sit in silence, listening together, and I invite them to break the silence whenever they’re ready, whether it takes 20 seconds or 20 minutes. Prayer is the best way to prepare to meet with your director.

Journal

There may be artifacts from the past month—encounters, conversations, stories, insights from Scripture or other devotional reading or hearing sermons, moments of prayer, thoughts, dreams. If you’ve written them down, whether they felt important at the time or not, pulling them out before your spiritual director like items from a suitcase, or jigsaw puzzle pieces from the box, your director can assist you in connecting the dots between them. If you haven’t been writing them down, they may be lost opportunities.

Make the space to listen how God responds to your prayers, especially when God responds in unexpected ways. Regular patterns of spiritual practices give us plenty of subject matter to bring to the direction meeting. Waiting until the day before or the day of is like cramming the last minute for a big test.

Work to capture your thoughts on paper as they happen throughout the month. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or lengthy. Michael Hyatt provides a simple template for daily journaling. Sacred Ordinary Days has resources for a weekly rhythm of spiritual reflection. One of the foundational pieces to the Getting Things Done methodology is the weekly review. The Examen, a daily practice started by St. Ignatius, is yet another tool for self reflection. Whatever you do, write it down. There is no better way to keep track of and pay attention to your own growth over time.

Notice your anxious places

As a director myself, I send each of my directees an email a day or two before we meet. From a practical stand point, I do this to confirm the details of our meeting. But it also serves a deeper purpose.

I borrow a paragraph from Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations:

When we meet tomorrow, I want to explore with you whatever you feel most deserves our attention, so I will begin our conversation by asking, “What is the most important thing you and I should be talking about?” I will rely on you to tell me. If the thought of bringing up an issue makes you anxious, that’s a signal you need to bring it up. I’m not going to preempt your agenda with my own.

It’s helpful to begin to think about those things that threaten your peace, that ignite your shame, and incite your anger. That place of anxiety often reveals the growing edges of God’s work in our lives. The creation story of Genesis states, “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” It’s one of my favorite verses. Formless and empty. That’s where God’s creative work happens.

Where are you feeling formless and empty? It’s my hunch that’s where God’s creative work is about to break out.

And often it’s okay to have not prepared at all. Some times it’s a bad month. Some times we get swept away by the onslaught of activities and obligations. That’s okay. All the more reason to keep your appointment with your director, so that, for that one hour, you hold the franticness at bay, and you listen. You sit still and you be with God.

Allow yourself to enter into the story of the panicked disciples, sitting in their fishing dinghy in the middle of a violent squall. Shake Jesus awake, who has the wherewithal to be taking a nap amidst the noise. Listen deeply as he stands and shouts out into the rain, “Peace! Be still!” And sit in silent wonder as he crawls back into his nap.

Your spiritual director will be with you. You are not alone.

Be still and know that I am God.

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How to Find a Spiritual Director

How to Find a Spiritual Director

Nearly eight years ago, I moved across the country to take a job at a church. I knew right away that I would need a spiritual director to help keep me grounded amidst the onslaught of tasks, activities, and competing demands that come with receiving a paycheck from a church. I’ve heard Stanley Hauerwas say, “Being in ministry is like being nibbled to death by ducks.” In my book, committing to the work of spiritual direction is much preferable to death by ducks.

“Though good advice lies deep within the heart,
    a person with understanding will draw it out” (Proverbs 20:5).

I wanted help keeping the most important things the most important things—having eyes to see and ears to hear the fresh activity of God’s kingdom around me amidst the cacophony of busyness. I needed help staying close to the heart of Jesus.

The church happened to also employ a “director of healing ministries,” so I approached him. Jerry wasn’t a spiritual director in the traditional sense, but he was a licensed counselor with extensive background in Celebrate Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous. Prayerfully, he agreed, and we’ve been meeting every other week now at a local coffeeshop for the past eight years. Long after he retired and I left that church setting, he still asks me tough questions and helps me pay close attention to the Spirit’s work in my life.

Thus far, I’ve had good experiences in finding a director by having some good people in my social network. But what if you don’t? How do you go about finding a spiritual director to walk with you in this season of life?

Here’s a couple of options:

  • Ask people you know. Do you currently know any directors? Do you know people who are meeting with a director that they’d recommend? Does someone in your church offer direction? Like my experience with Jerry, is there someone in your church that may not know they are a spiritual director but has the reputation of doing what a director does?
  • Look for retreat centers located in your region. Monasteries and seminaries can be great resources for connecting with local directors.
  • Some spiritual direction schools provide a directory of alumni who are available to new directees. Sustainable Faith provides such a directory. So does Equipping Lydia. Because of technology, many directors (myself included) offer direction via video services like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom.
  • Other online directories for someone in your area include Spiritual Directors International and Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association.

You don’t have to be in ministry to seek out a spiritual director. You may be looking for an ally in discerning your next career steps. You may work in a service profession, like teaching, where you constantly give yourself for the sake of others, and you need some self care. You may simply desire to take some deeper steps with God.

Once you reach out to a director, you’ll want to set up an initial consultation. You want to know that this is a good fit, that is director is a person you can trust. You should treat this like a job interview, where you’re asking questions. As a director, I have particular questions I have in mind during a first meeting, and I hope that the prospective directee has some intentionality in the meeting.

It’s my hope to leave that meeting with some confidence whether or not to go forward. A good director can provide referrals if it’s just not a good fit. Spiritual directors are human beings, and sometimes things just don’t click. Sometimes it’s personality, sometimes theology, sometimes schedule. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still pursue spiritual direction.

Here are some helpful questions to bring in a first meeting:

  • Tell me your story. Everybody has a story. It’s a always a gift to hear someone’s story. It may very well cover many of the questions below.
  • What qualifies you to be a spiritual director? Have they done a school program? Received a certificate or degree? What’s their life experience as a spiritual director? And for how long?
  • Whose sheep are you? I had a colleague ask me this once, and I’ve never forgotten. This is a question about accountability. Do they have a supervisor? Are they part of a church? Are they accountable to a community and pastoral leadership? Who do they belong to? Stay away from lone gurus.
  • Who is your community? Who are your most important relationships? Similar to the above question, we are to whom we belong. To whom do they belong? Family, formal associations, neighborhood, church? Who is their support network?
  • What standards or ethics do you abide by? Spiritual Directors International provides a code of ethics for all its members, and a spiritual director should be able to communicate their standards.
  • What are your rates? Be ready to pay for spiritual direction, even if it’s not asked. It’s worth paying for. Money has a way of adding “weight” to the relationship. It adds to your own commitment to the process, and more often than not, a director is a trained professional who should be treated as such.
  • How frequently? Monthly? Bi-monthly? Every six weeks? You’ll want to be clear about expectations.
  • Who is God for you? What is the Bible to you? What does spiritual direction mean to you? At face value, these may appear to be obvious, but particularly if you’ve found this person outside of your usual network, you may find their spiritual experience to be very different from your own.
  • How does technology affect how you do direction? You may explore together the pros and cons of doing direction by video.
  • What commitments do you have in direction? For myself, prayer, confidentiality, and presence are commitments I make sure to communicate up front.
  • How does direction end? There are any number of reasons for ending a direction relationship, and you may want to discuss what those might look like.
  • How does your commitment to particular social issues or theology influence direction for you? Social and political issues are polarizing in our culture, and you and your potential director want to be honest about how your (and their) passion for such issues might creep
  • Do you give homework? This is something I’m frequently asked. I invite directees to journal. When appropriate, I may invite to read a certain book. Direction is about noticing what God is doing, and it’s between you and your director to discern how you best engage.

If you’d like to talk about what spiritual direction might look like for yourself, your team, your church staff, or your church as a whole, send me an email and let’s explore that.

If you’re just getting started with spiritual direction, I recommend these books:

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Why Every Leader Needs a Spiritual Director

Why Every Leader Needs a Spiritual Director

Whether you’re a business owner, a pastor, or a stay-at-home mom, if you’re a leader, a spiritual director can be an indispensable ally in your ability to thrive.

Last week a friend post on social media The 25 Leadership Lessons of Steve Kerr. (Kerr is head coach of the NBA Golden State Warriors.) A comment was left bemoaning the fact this is the same leadership advice that’s been packaged and re-packaged for years. To which, my friend responded, maybe it’s because bosses still don’t put it into practice.

A spiritual director leads us to slow down, to pay attention, to listen closely, to be on the lookout for the Divine Spark both in ourselves and in those we lead. Wherever your religious convictions happen to land, a spiritual director listens and sees. Here are just a few of the ways a spiritual director can be an invaluable asset to any healthy leader.

A director can guide a leader in self awareness

I took my family to an arts festival this weekend, and my kids shot straight to the inflatables and Jupiter Jump. I watch kids on inflatables and think it’s such a metaphor for emotional health and maturity. Most, if not all, kids have zero sense of self awareness. They go flying and crashing into one another and tears ensue.

Each of us has a personality that’s a tremendous gift to ourselves and those around us, and at the same time, it comes with sharp hooks and edges that can cause severe damage to our self and others if we’re not careful.

Knowing who you are is one of the most important leadership lessons to learn, and it’s not something you suddenly wake up one day to discover. Self awareness is a long and patient journey. A director is an indispensable guide on this path of self development.

A director can help a leader see what we’re missing

Some years ago, I went to watch some of my students play soccer. I’d never been to an NCAA soccer match. To me, I just saw a bunch of people running in the grass kicking a ball. My colleague who joined me (who confessed to me that if he hadn’t been a youth pastor he’d have been a soccer coach) talked me through the whole game—the ever-evolving strategies of each team, the responsibilities of various positions. I was learning there was a game behind the game.

Spiritual directors are students of human nature. When there’s conflict and friction either among your team or between yourself and your team, a spiritual director can ask penetrating, even uncomfortable, questions to get to the source. A director can help you see the game behind the game of your human interactions.

A director can ease a leader’s symptoms of burnout

There’s a story of Moses in the Bible where the children of Israel are attacked by enemies in the wilderness. When Moses holds his staff in the air, Israel prevails. When Moses’ arms get tired, the enemies take the advantage. So Aaron and Hur hold up Moses’ tired arms so that Israel wins the battle.

Who are your Aaron and Hur? Who lifts you up when you’re tired? Where do you go when the warning signs of burnout start creeping in? Where do you have a safe place where you don’t have to have all the answers and can say out loud your questions, doubts, and insecurities? A spiritual director can be your Aaron and Hur.

A director can keep a leader tethered to reality

Pride and ego are two of a leader’s most deadly temptations. If we’re not careful, we can confuse our true self with a distorted projected version of our self that others, over time, start to think is the real us.

I first met Mike when he interviewed for a youth ministry job at our church. We had a very informal group interview with the whole student ministry department. As we were ending, Mike turns to me and says, “Whose sheep are you?”

I’ll never forget it, because it reminded me that for me to be a healthy leader, I also needed to be a good follower. Whenever I start to believe too many of the nice things people say about me, my director calls me back to reality.

A director offers to a leader a non-anxious presence

Leadership can be lonely. You have to be “on” all the time. You have to have all the answers. People are counting on you. You deal with pressures both internal and external. You continually face the risk of being misunderstood.

A regular check-in with a director can be a calm in the midst of the storm, a peaceful island amidst the rocky waves of constant deadlines and demands. A director cultivates our mental and emotional health.

A director provides to a leader accountability in holding margin

We are not whole human beings without healthy rhythms of work and rest. If we’re not careful we can say “yes” to everything that comes our way. Things like vacation and Sabbath are crucial to our well being.

Our margin is valuable. A spiritual director can provide accountability in naming and keeping appropriate, win-win boundaries for both you and your team.

If you’re looking to expand the width and breadth of your leadership abilities, consider reaching out to a spiritual director. If you have questions about spiritual direction or would like to set up a free initial consultation, contact me here.

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If you like this, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter. I write stuff there that doesn’t show up on the blog. You’ll get a weekly Bible reading plan, as well as some other resources I find that have got me thinking each week.

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What is a Spiritual Director

What is a Spiritual Director?

Bryan was the first spiritual director I ever sought out. He was a deacon in our church with a deep, quiet wisdom about him. I was in a transitional season. I had finished seminary, but the next steps weren’t working out the way that I had planned. Bryan helped me with a rhythm of journaling and paying attention to the movements there over time. He taught me lectio divina.

I had seen a friend write these words on his blog:

I’m coming to the conclusion that if you are in a role of leadership in the church (whether full time, part time, or volunteer makes little to difference to what i am about to say) please consider having a spiritual director.

So what is a spiritual director? I’ve heard it described as “being present to God for another.” It is a process where one person, a director will spend time listening to you while also listening to God to help you discern what God is doing in your life so that you can cooperate with his desires and activity for you.

And I thought, “Sign me up for that.” I’d never heard of spiritual director before, but those were the words for what I was hungry for right then.

The Christian culture of which I find myself seems so soaked in the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus we’ve forgotten the value of listening and submitting to wise Christian guides. We’re more prone to chase the fad of the latest Christian celebrity than we are to submit to the wisdom of a Christ-centered sage who has lived life, knows God, and takes the time to know us.

Eugene Peterson has a series of works related to the pastoral vocation, and in Working the Angles, he devotes the last third of the book of spiritual direction. He writes,

“Spiritual directors used to be important because they attended to what everyone agreed was important; they are important now because they are about the only people left who confirm the insights and longings that everyone in fugitive moments thinks might be important, but that get brushed aside by urgent and hurrying experts on their way to a therapy session or a committee meeting.”

Spiritual Directors International provides a Standards for Ethical Conduct for directors. Below is my riff on those standards. This is the kind of spiritual director you want to look for.

A spiritual director attends to their own self-care

They work on their own spiritual growth. They practice what they preach. Like the image of the oxygen mask in every airline safety presentation, spiritual directors take care of their souls through spiritual formation, both personally and in community.

Spiritual directors continually learn. They continually discern their own calling. They are life-long students of psychology and sociology and culture and theology and church history and spiritual wisdom—all as they pertain to hearing and responding to God’s voice with others.

Spiritual directors receive spiritual direction. They submit to a pastor or a denominational board or other supervisory group. They seek out their own counseling when necessary.

Spiritual directors practice self-care. They cultivate their marriages, family relationships, and other relationships. They establish healthy boundaries in all their relationships, and voluntarily remove themselves from any space that might compromise the spiritual direction relationship.

Spiritual directors know their limits. They can say “no.” They are self-aware to manage their social energy. They notice the ways that physical space can affect both themselves and their directees.

Peterson calls directors, “mentors in prayer… experienced companions in the soul’s itinerary… large-souled men and women thinking strenuously and living arduously at the deep center of life.”

A spiritual director serves as host to the directee.

Spiritual directors set the table. They initiate the expectations for, the nature of, and the limitations of spiritual direction in the life of the directee. They cast a clear vision and articulate the parameters. There are roles and responsibilities when it comes to direction, and spiritual directors communicate those. These may include the length and frequency of meetings, compensation, and the process for ending the spiritual direction relationship.

Spiritual directors value the Image of God in every directee. The story of the directee is honored in high esteem. The questions that a spiritual director asks come from a place of deep curiosity and never from a place of judgment or “gotcha.” Dignity and respect are postures of spiritual directors. Spiritual directors are careful to navigate discrepancies in power and boundaries with directees.

Spiritual directors commit to strict confidentiality. They maintain the privacy of the individuals they serve in all matters of conversation and written and electronic notes. They refrain from initiating conversation in public settings, much like a professional counselor. They host spiritual direction in appropriate spaces. They recognize and address the limits of confidentiality in regards to legal issues such as abuse or self-harm.

Peterson writes, “We need to deal with the obvious, with sin and with the Spirit, and we would rather deal with almost anything else.”

A spiritual director is rooted in community.

Spiritual directors are no lone gurus. Christian spiritual directors are committed to church life. It is in church life where directors “are earthed and find their identity,” to borrow Jean Vanier’s phrase.

Spiritual directors cultivate friendships and relationships with other directors, pastors, ministry leaders, and therapists. They’re careful to hold the work and personhood of such colleagues in high regard among directees. Directors never undercut the work of such colleagues. They know their work exists in a spiritual ecosystem that includes all of the Christian community.

Spiritual directors are open to the continuing work of discernment and accountability. They draw from the work and experience of others. They respect the different church experiences or spiritual experiences that directees may have had.

Spiritual directors are people of deep character and solid integrity in their public life. They are truthful about their credentials, education, and experience. They respect the Image of God in every human being.

Again, Peterson: “Spiritual direction is then conducted with an awareness that it takes place in God’s active presence, and that our conversation is therefore conditioned by his speaking and listening, his being there.”

I’ve been around church long enough to see this pattern: A person walks into church. It scratches an itch they never even knew they had, and next thing they know, they’re coming every Sunday. But it leaves them wanting more. So they find a way to “get connected” or “get involved.”

They join a small group or a Sunday school class. They volunteer in the youth group. They show up early and set up. They stay late and tear down. And then the thought comes, “If only I could be on staff.” So they start collecting a paycheck. They serve as a musician, a youth pastor, or an administrator.

And then they sense a call to ministry, so they go to seminary. Soon they find themselves ordained and leading a church. And then they discover they’re no closer to God than when they started.

People at all the stages of that journey populate churches around the world, and a spiritual director is a necessary voice at each and every stage of the journey interrogating reality.

Just what exactly are you looking for?

Do you have words for that hunger?

Are you responding to God or is this your own wish-dream?

Is your ego dying a slow death on the journey towards God, or are you finding it inflated by the accolades and praise of others?

How are you seeing God’s activity around you? How do you know it’s God?

What I’ve found in direction, over time, is this journey from data to information to knowledge to insight to wisdom—learning how see the signal in the noise, so to speak. A director is an attentive companion on the journey more than they are a guru. They are someone who listens and asks questions, sometimes obvious and sometimes uncomfortable.

image credit: Twitter @gapingvoid

Spiritual direction is no mere naval gazing. We attend to the work of God in our own lives so that we can attend to the work of God in the world around us.

If you’d like to set up a free initial consultation, fill out this contact form.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter. I write stuff there that doesn’t show up on the blog. You’ll get a weekly Bible reading plan, as well as some other resources I find that have got me thinking each week.

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7 Cues for Starting with a Spiritual Director

7 Cues for Starting with a Spiritual Director

Who is spiritual direction for?

It’s a question I frequently hear. To which, my first response is: everybody. I genuinely think every Christian should meet regularly with a spiritual director and have a safe place for going deeper in all the stuff of life.

But recently I was asked a different question.

“If I wanted to help connect people to a spiritual director, what are cues that I should listen for?”

So while there is a general sense that a spiritual director can be helpful, here are seven particular scenarios in which a director might be uniquely gifted to be God’s presence to someone you know.

1. “I work in ministry.”

Perhaps your friend is a pastor. Maybe they’re a church planter. Or a youth pastor. Or a worship leader. Or a Sunday school class teacher. Or a small group coordinator. Or they’re an administrator or children’s worker. What all these people have in common is, they get their paycheck from a church, and in all likelihood, some unhealthy sense of identity from their job.

Self care is critical if you want to live a life in service of others for any length of time. Human egos and unrealistic expectations from culture about what ministry should look like can breed resentment and depression. Even church leaders need a safe space to express vulnerabilities and disappointments, doubts and frustrations.

Working for a church or Christian organization brings with it a sometimes unspoken expectation that everybody acts like nice Christians all the time. When that expectation isn’t met, people need a safe space to fall into in order to recognize how God is actually at work in their life and find healing and reconciliation.

2. “I want to go into ministry.”/”I’m a seminary student.”

There can be some overlap in these two comments. Oftentimes we can fall into a trap assuming that the more involved we get at church, then the closer we are to God. If one isn’t careful, just the opposite can, in fact, happen.

Jesus says, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” You can have Twitter follows who retweet your profound musings. People might listen to your sermon from iTunes. You might feel important because you help so many people. And your soul can be completely empty in the process.

There’s no better time to develop healthy soul care habits than when you’re just getting started. Likewise, a director help listen with you as you clarify your calling. You may find your calling validated and confirmed. You may find that what you’re really looking for in a ministry job you can more healthily find elsewhere.

3. “I was just diagnosed with __________.”

Four years ago my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. It changed her life. Today, she has a pretty incredible story you should ask her about. It’s a significant part, not only of her story with God, but also of my dad’s.

Sometimes those doctor visits leave our friends pondering mortality. As creatures of modernity, we have a poor sense of the limitations of our bodies. Other times, a doctor visit leaves our friends needing to make radical lifestyle changes. I once had a ministry colleague suffer an unexpected heart attack. It left him rearranging everything from his diet to his work schedule.

Our bodies have a way of reminding us that we aren’t in control as much as we’d like to think we are. We live in a time and place of dualistic thinking that assumes the body and spirit are mutually exclusive. But they’re not.

Our bodies have a way of communicating to us, revealing unhealthy rhythms and habits. Hypertension, diabetes, insomnia, panic attacks—all these can be ways that our bodies tell us that life is out of whack. Listening to God with a spiritual director can bring to the surface many of these issues and how to process them well.

4. “I just moved here/there.”

Through the decade of my twenties, I lived in 10 different zip codes in four different states. We live in a transient world. This fact has tremendous implications on our relationships with people. We are designed social creatures, but chasing career or education or wanderlust have a way of unmooring us.

The Beatles’ song “Eleanor Rigby” has the chorus, “All the only people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong.” There can be all sorts of ways that loneliness, rootlessness, isolation, and feeling like an outsider reside just below the surface. A spiritual director can help give words to these emotions.

5. “I’m tired, busy, burned out.”

Life comes at us fast and furious. And many of us enjoy pouring ourselves out on behalf of others, whether that’s ministry or parenting or particular vocations like teaching, counseling, or caregiving. But how do you receive?

It becomes easy to wrap our identity in our accomplishments, productivity, and to-do lists. Keeping ourselves busy is most often a distraction, sometimes an avoidance, of what really matters in our lives. A spiritual director will ask tough questions about why you overstuff your life. Where is your true identity?

6. “I don’t know where I belong.”

Sometimes you just feel like a square peg in a round hole. Sometimes a career just doesn’t seem to fit anymore. Sometimes a church makes one feel like the odd-person-out.

A spiritual director can help a person separate the normal-weird from the weird-weird. Often a person just needs to hear that alternatives are possible.

7. “I want more of God.”

This can come from a sincere desire to grow deeper in a life of faith. It’s possible for growth to just happen. God is sovereign. But it happens exponentially when we cooperate with what God is already doing and we are intentional and mindful in our practices.

Spiritual direction may be exactly what someone you know or love may be looking for. You might even consider sponsoring them to meet with a director. Margaret Guenther writes, “The purpose of spiritual direction is… to help people discover how to define themselves in relation not only to the world, but also to God.”

When referring a friend or family member to a spiritual director, it’s important to remember that a person should never be compelled against their will. Spiritual direction doesn’t fix people, and it should never be confused with licensed therapy.

If your friend is unfamiliar with spiritual direction, you might refer them to online articles like those here or the publication Listen. You might share with them a book like The Practice of Spiritual Direction by William Barry and William Connolly, Holy Listening by Margaret Guenther, or The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson.

If you’d like to know more what meeting with a spiritual director might look like for you, fill out this contact form, or you can search for a director in your area.

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10 Benefits of Spiritual direction

10 Benefits of Spiritual Direction

“The task of the spiritual director is to be positioned, like a campfire in the wilderness,
welcoming sojourners from all corners of life to stop, relax and yarn for a while. A place
where tired bodies and spirits are warmed by the fire and refreshed”Simon Brown.

How do you attend to and respond to the work of God in your life?

This is the question at the center of spiritual direction. In short, a spiritual director is someone who attentively listens with you as you listen to God. A person might seek out spiritual direction for any number reasons. The benefits are boundless. Below, I sketch out ten of them.

1. Self awareness

I have two toddlers. They’re all arms and legs. No self awareness at all. They bump into things, knock things over, run into walls and doorknobs that are at eye-level. Unsupervised, my daughter with an uncapped marker will result in writing on everything. Simply because she’s not paying attention.

And we’re all metaphorically a little bit like that, aren’t we? We’re all on a journey of maturity and we’re all at various stages of self-awareness. The more self-awareness we have, the less damage we do to ourselves and to those around us. Sometimes a meeting with a good spiritual director is like a serious look in the mirror. A director may ask, “I’m seeing this. Are you seeing this?” Some times it’s uncomfortable, even painful, but it may be what’s necessary for your next stage of growth.

2. Mental health

According to research in 2011, one in ten Americans are taking antidepressants, a 400% increase from the late 1980s. We live in a culture haunted by anxiety and stress and depression.

Jerry Seinfeld has a great bit about helmets:
Why did we invent the helmet? Well, because we were participating in too many activities that were cracking our heads. We looked at the situation. We chose not to avoid these activities, but to just make little plastic hats so that we can continue our head-crackin’ lifestyles.

Don’t hear me wrong. There are situations where medication is a proper and necessary solution. But there may be other situations where medication covers over a long-term unhealthy lifestyle, much like Jerry’s helmets. Sometimes we just need to slow down. Spiritual direction can be a healthy place to share things out loud to another human being. We’re hard-wired for this. In this way, it can be like “burnout insurance.”

3. Spiritual health

Most of us have heard how we need to read the Bible and pray ever since the first day we turned to God. Some of us have received more help than others in helpful ways to live that out. Christians through the centuries have a wide array of practices that draw them closer to God.

An experienced spiritual director can offer not only fresh ways of approaching Scripture and prayer, but also can introduce new spiritual disciplines with which you can experiment. And you can treat them as exactly that, experiments. Some may click immediately. Others may not be for you. Spiritual direction can be a place to discover new ways to grow deeper with God.

4. Better questions

Albert Einstein said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask.” Sometimes, on our own, we can be blocked by the wrong questions. We find ourselves stuck in the same old patterns of thinking.

A spiritual director can help us learn how to ask deeper, more meaningful questions, not just of ourselves, but of God and of those around us. Spiritual direction cultivates our curiosity. It exercises those spiritual and mental muscles that wonder and creatively explore the world.

5. Hear “you’re normal”

Regular meetings with a spiritual director provide an outlet for all the creeping doubts, crazy hunches, and scary questions that lurk in the back of your mind. In all likelihood, in whatever you’re feeling, you’re not alone. And a good spiritual director will tell you so. You just need the courage to say it out loud.

From time to time, when introducing someone to spiritual direction, I’m asked, “Well, shouldn’t my pastor do this?” And sometimes the answer is yes. But there are other situations, especially in the case of a person who works for a church, where the line between pastor and boss is muddled and some sharing would be inappropriate. In cases like these, a spiritual director is an impartial third-party who can listen, provoke deeper understanding, and lead into places of grace and healing.

6. Reconciled relationships

This follows self-awareness. As you come to a greater understanding of your own shadows that lurk in the corners of your being, you come to a greater awareness of their effect on those around you.

Frequently, our words and actions are experienced by others in ways we never intended, leading to hurt and misunderstanding. A careless word can break a relationship. A spiritual director can help expose your hidden shadows, as painful as that may be, and assist in offering forgiveness where it’s needed.

7. Clarity about decisions and purpose

Frequently we find ourselves at crossroads, in need of making significant decisions. It may related to career or education or ministry. It may involve love or family. It may involve a promotion that calls on a new set of skills and a new set of responsibilities.

A spiritual director can be a helpful sounding board. They may pry at some underlying assumptions about your choices. They may ask penetrating questions about what really matters to you. They may help you see things in a different light.

8. New language about God

I spent my first 18 years in one particular church tradition. As far as I knew at that time, that’s how all Christians were. Then I went to a Christian college that was a part of whole different Christian tradition. Later in life, I became good friends with some Roman Catholics who showed me yet another “accent” to being Christian.

The Christian faith is like a large house with many rooms. Many of us can spend much of our lives in a single room. An experienced spiritual director can show us new rooms. Just because we have a bad experience with one room doesn’t mean we burn the whole house down.

9. Hearing a new story

You may very well have assumptions about yourself, about God, about faith, about the church, that need to be dismantled. There may be be things you take for granted that need to be re-examined. You need to hear a new story.

One of my favorite stories of Jesus is found in Luke 24, just after the resurrection. Two disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus, unrecognized, joins them. Dejectedly, they share their grief, sorrow, and disappointment. And the Jesus goes on to re-narrate the story of Israel in such a way that his death and resurrection make perfect sense. Similarly, a spiritual director can take the pieces of your story and retell it in a way full of hope and joy.

10. Receive the gift of presence

We live in a day and age where we are forgetting what it means to be present to one another. Distractions scream at us from every corner of our day. Spiritual direction can be an intentional, scheduled monthly time to sit still and receive the gift of presence.

All of us are made for presence. We are hard-wired to connect with other human beings. A spiritual director is an ally on your journey. They listen without judgment in full confidence, giving you 100% of their attention.

Perhaps one or more of those benefits resonates with you. If you’d like to learn more about what spiritual direction might look like in your life, fill out this contact form and we can start that conversation.

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Crafting a spiritual plan

Crafting a Spiritual Plan

“The one who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” —Carl Jung

Do you have a spiritual plan for how you’d like to grow deeper with God in the upcoming year? In what ways can you participate with God as things like more peace and patience and self control grow in you?

When I garden, I have several plants that require some assistance. Otherwise, they spread all across the ground and get tangled up in one another. They need a trellis, a firm structure, that guides their growth and maximizes their ability to produce fruit.

As a human being, I’m finding I need something like a trellis, a structure that helps me grow. I need a spiritual plan.

In his letter to Christians in Galatia, Paul writes about how the presence of God’s Spirit cultivates in us things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I don’t know about you, but these are all things I could use a little more of this next year.

This week we find ourselves in that middle space between Christmas and New Years. We’re spending time with family. Maybe taking some time off work.

Maybe for you these are days for doing some self-reflective work. Was it a good year? Was it a bad year? What made it a good or bad year?

You take in all the things that happened over the last 365 days. You anticipate what may happen (or what you’d like to make happen) in the next trip around the sun. Maybe you make some resolutions about your health, your job, or your career.

Maybe you don’t.

What about your life with God? I’d like to put forward the idea of writing a spiritual plan for your next 12 months.

How might you make yourself available to God and your neighbors in a fresh and new way over the next 12 months? What fruit would you like to see growing in your life a year from now? Freedom from anxiety? Clarity of purpose? Empathy for others? Alleviating a nagging sense of loneliness?

Take some time in the coming days and make a plan. Maybe you write three sentences. Maybe you fill three notebooks. Quantity doesn’t matter. But thinking ahead and putting something to paper does.

Where might you like to be a year from now? What growth would you like to see happen? What would your life look like?

Consider your presence as it relates to these three places: worship, community, and mission. Mike Breen uses the language of “up,” “in,” and “out” that correlate to these. Worship (up) is our life as it relates to God. Community (in) is our life with other Christians. Mission (out) is our life in our wider neighborhood and community.

Worship

  • Can you be more regularly present with a worshiping community that you belong to?
  • Is there a consistent practice of prayer you can engage in?
  • What new practice of prayer can you explore?
  • Is there a rhythm of Scripture reading you can enter into?
  • What new spiritual discipline can you pick up?
  • Can you get into a new spiritual habit that draws you closer to God?
  • Are there new relationships you can pursue that help you be more present to God?
  • Do you need to start meeting with a spiritual director?

Community

  • How can you be helpful to your church community?
  • How can you use your unique gifting to serve others?
  • Who is someone in your church community you can share coffee with and listen to their story?
  • Are there a couple of friends to start meeting with regularly for prayer and encouragement?
  • Do you need to mentor and encourage a younger person?
  • Do you need to be mentored and be encouraged by an older person?

Mission

  • Can you learn the name of one next-door neighbor? Of all of them?
  • Do you invite one over for dinner?
  • Do you host a simple soup dinner for neighbors on your street?
  • Who is someone in your neighborhood you can share coffee with and listen to their story?
  • Are there ways to re-narrate your place at your job to imagine yourself in a place of God’s mission?
  • Can you meaningfully serve somewhere in your community (school, shelter, non-profit, etc.)?
  • Is there a place in your community where you can be a regular (like a Starbucks or McDonalds) in order to simple be present, pay attention to people, and listen to your community?

Whatever you do, keep it simple. But also keep it just beyond the realm of your comfort zone. Stretch yourself. Be specific. “Invite a neighbor for dinner once a month” is better than “Be more hospitable.” “Read a chapter each day and share with my partner what I discovered” is better than “Read the Bible more.”

Write it down. At the very least, consider one thing in each of those three areas. Share it with your partner, a mentor, a pastor, or a spiritual director. A trained spiritual director can drill down and explore with you the “why” about your plan. Knowing the “why” behind your plan can be invaluable in helping stay on track.

Set a reminder for yourself to revisit your plan in about month. Are you on track? Is it realistic? Have you completely forgotten about it? Did you set the bar too low? Have grace for yourself if it’s not working out. Just reboot and start over.

It’s crucial to remember we don’t grow the fruit in our life. God does. But we do play a part in being receptive to God’s work in our lives. We can posture ourselves to receive.

Be proactive in making this next year a season that increases your capacity to love God and love your neighbor.

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If you like this, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter. I write stuff there that doesn’t show up on the blog. You’ll get a weekly Bible reading plan, as well as some other resources I find that have got me thinking each week.

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Enneagram helps in spiritual direction

How the Enneagram helps in spiritual direction

Imagine finding out that you’re normal.

Imagine learning that you’re not alone.

Imagine discovering that, in fact, there is nothing wrong with you.

Imagine stumbling in a dark room and suddenly you find the light switch.

This is what I found in the Enneagram.

“Wait,” you say, “the innia-what?”

The Enneagram is a personality typing system. It’s a lens through which you experience the world. It’s your operating system, the way you’re hard-wired on the inside.

Discerning your Enneagram type can help you learn why you find your job unfulfilling, or why you constantly have friction with your spouse, or why church always makes you feel like a square peg in a round hole. Rather than be defined by your behavior, the Enneagram reveals your motivations. Sure, you like helping people, or you want to change the world. But why? What’s your payoff? What’s your driver? The Enneagram answers these questions.

The Enneagram identifies nine different types for people. Each type has amazing gifts, and each type has a dark side. Any type might be an extrovert or introvert. Any type can make a great pastor or nurse or police officer. But they’re each driven by different motivations.

Type ONE: The Perfectionist or Reformer

When I think of the ONE on the Enneagram, I think of the scene at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where young Indiana emerges from the cave to find that his scout troop has abandoned him. “Everyone’s lost but me,” he proclaims.

ONE’s are visionaries who can see a perfect world. The only problem is it exists only in their mind. They’re idealists. They’re driven by a nagging sense that nothing is good enough, and they are on the elusive search for getting things right. ONE’s make great editors. You might be a ONE if you are your own harshest critic in not only your spiritual life but also in the rest of your life.
In spiritual direction, you may be searching for the right way to connect with God. You may have tried every technique for having a quiet time but think you could be doing it better. A spiritual director can help you being okay with grace.

Type TWO: The Helper

The North American church loves TWO’s. The TWO can’t stop themselves from helping people. They are the first to volunteer. They love to serve. At a party, they’re the first at the door to welcome you and get you a drink. A TWO will take care of your every need.

TWO’s genuinely love people. But it can come at the expense of themselves. They can see everyone else’s needs but their own. They are driven by the need to be loved. You might be a TWO if you’ve ever caught yourself fixating whether others are actually noticing all of your hard work and service.

If you’re a TWO, you may need to be referred repeatedly to spiritual direction before they discover its a good idea. You spend so much of your energy helping others, you forget to take care of yourself. You are the person who need to be told on the airplane to put the oxygen mask on yourself first. A spiritual director can help you ground your identity in the love of God rather than on how much others need you.

Type THREE: The Performer or Achiever

The THREE plays to win. Competition is their native language, and productivity is their love language. They get things done. American culture celebrates THREE’s all day long.

A THREE can be a natural leader but can struggle with relationships. Doing is so much easier than being. It’s easy for a THREE to default into “the end justifies the means,” stepping all over others and their feelings. You might be a THREE if you find yourself to be a social chameleon, able to slip into a variety of personas to impress whatever crowd in which you find yourself.

Similar to the TWO, THREE’s can easily forget self-care. If you’re a THREE, you probably never want to admit a moment of weakness and self-care could be interpreted as weakness. A spiritual director can work with you on embracing stillness and trusting in the slow work of God.

Type FOUR: The Romantic or Individualist

An Enneagram FOUR sees the world from such a unique perspective. FOUR’s embrace the unconventional. They don’t just think out-of-the-box, they live life out-of-the-box. They are driven by the need to be different. Many FOUR’s are artists or work in creative fields. They are great idea people.

They find themselves right at home in melancholy. They can be captivated by emotions, especially their own. FOUR’s by default are contrarians. You might be a FOUR if you think the Enneagram, or any personality system for that matter, is completely ridiculous. “You don’t know me,” is the mantra of the FOUR.

If you’re a FOUR, you might be driven by a keen sense of beauty, and so spiritual direction can open you to finding God’s beauty and presence in the mundane and ordinary. A spiritual director can help you heal from past hurts and keep you from wallowing in them.

Type FIVE: The Investigator

A FIVE might be a compulsive learner because they’re driven by the need to understand. They can be fantastic listeners and make great counselors and spiritual directors. They just have a superpower of seeing everything, and then being able to make connections admit it all. A FIVE will observe and take in everything before they participate.

FIVE’s tend to have a limited amount of daily emotional energy, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. If you’ve encountered a spent FIVE, you may have found them aloof or cold. A FIVE tends to value competence in others, and can easily dismiss those they judge incompetent. You might be a FIVE if your happy place is a bookstore.

In spiritual direction, you might explore how to live less in your head and more in your heart. A spiritual director can help you share your life with others and be with others without agenda.

Type SIX: The Loyalist

A SIX on the Enneagram is loyal and full of compassion. You want a best friend that’s a SIX because they will never let you down. Like the FIVE, the SIX is a gifted listener. Like the ONE, the SIX is a natural rule follower. But where a ONE follows the rules to be right, the SIX follows the rules to be safe.

A SIX is driven by the need to be secure. They’re frequently playing out worst-case scenarios in their head. Worry is the native language of the SIX, and fear can be the voice in their head that never shuts up. If something can go wrong, the SIX is convinced it’s a matter of when, not if.

In spiritual direction, a SIX can discover freedom from their ever-present anxiety through centering prayer and meditation. A spiritual director can help a SIX trust that in God everything is going to be okay.

Type SEVEN: The Enthusiast

Everybody needs a SEVEN in their life who will jump out of airplanes with them. A SIX needs safety, while a SEVEN needs excitement. A SEVEN seeks thrills and is willing to try anything and everything. A SEVEN is driven by the need to have fun.

Spontaneity is the life of the SEVEN. Where FOUR is right at home in hard feelings, the SEVEN ain’t got time for that. Negative emotions tend to get shut down and repressed by a SEVEN. You might be a SEVEN if the idea of “spiritual disciplines” bores you.

In spiritual direction, a you might explore the practice of finding God in stillness. A spiritual director might help you channel your energy in facing difficult emotions like grief or sadness or anger.

Type EIGHT: The Challenger

An EIGHT is either your very best friend or your very worst enemy. EIGHT’s draw on a tremendous capacity of compassion, especially for the down-and-out, the little guy, and the marginalized. EIGHT’s make great activists and lawyers.

The world of the EIGHT is black and white. They have an intuitive sense of justice. If an EIGHT senses you’ve been taken advantage of, they will jump to your defense. But if they sense you are the one doing the victimizing, they will rear back like a momma bear protecting her young. An EIGHT tends to thrive in conflict and confrontation.

In spiritual direction, you can find a place of moderation and balance and see people as human beings rather than simply causes. A spiritual director can help you explore strength in vulnerability.

Type NINE: The Peacemaker

The NINE’s on the Enneagram have an innate sense of empathy. They are bridge builders and have a gift for seeing all sides of an issue. NINE’s are content to go with the flow. They are the most laid back of all they types.

Where a THREE might blend into their surroundings to find the advantage, the NINE blends in so as to not be a hassle to anyone. You might be a NINE if your default response to the question “Where do you want to go out?” is “I don’t know, wherever you want to go.”

In spiritual direction, you might grow in your ability to make your own decisions rather than just along with others. A spiritual director might help you uncover your true self under the layers of others’ expectations under which you’ve hidden.

This is just the briefest of sketches. There are all kinds of ways that each type is connected to others in both stress and mature growth. Learning the dynamics of your Enneagram type is just one way of growing into a more human being as God designed you.

You can begin to uncover and explore your type with a spiritual director. Two great books for learning more about the Enneagram include The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. There’s also a related website with a lot of audio resources unpacking the Enneagram.

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spiritual direction

What to Expect in Your First Spiritual Direction Session

So spiritual direction sounds like a really good to idea you. You’re all in. Now what?

Imagine a really big jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got a bag full of pieces but no box—no picture of what it looks like. Spiritual direction is kinda like that. It’s like figuring out this ever-expansive puzzle with someone else who has seen some puzzles in their time.

My toddlers like jigsaw puzzles (not too many pieces, though). And I’m working them through a process of how to put together puzzles.

It’s a slow process, as you might imagine.

First you turn over all your pieces. Next you look for your corners. Then start sorting out all the edges and looking for patterns. And then you’re patient. You don’t go mashing any two pieces together to make them fit. Patience.

And that isn’t too unlike spiritual direction. The first few times together is a lot like dumping all the pieces on the table (“Are you sure that’s all of them?”), spreading them out, sorting them out by edges or common patterns.

And then being patient.

But enough with the metaphors, already. What’s a first session actually look like? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Every spiritual director is going to be a little different in their approach in meeting someone for the first time. Let me share with you my process.

In general, these are big pieces that I’m looking for first when we meet. These are the corners and edges of your jigsaw puzzle that I have my eye out for.

Briefly describe your spiritual journey.

Tell me your story—not every detail. I want to hear the significant God moments, those significant spiritual experiences that have given shape to your life. When did you discover God? What led to that situation? How did you know it was God? When have you felt near and far from God? How do you know? How have you listened to God throughout your life?

You’re on a journey. You’re still in process, and where you are today makes complete sense given all the places you’ve been so far. Even if it doesn’t look like it at first glance.

What spiritual disciplines do you currently practice?

Spiritual disciplines are those habits we engage in that make us look more like Jesus. They draw us closer to the heart of God. They can include, but aren’t limited to, prayer, Bible study, fasting, worship, service. You may do them and feel close to God. You may do them because you’ve been told to do them but you don’t see God at all. I’m looking for how you actually experience God, the places you’re looking for God and finding God, and the places you’re looking and not finding God.

What self-assessments or personality tests have you taken and what have been the results?

Every soul is different. Everybody’s unique. And so, the way you experience God is unique. Your experience of spiritual direction will be unique.

I love to garden. I know that every tomato plant is unique, but all tomato plants (whether their cherry tomatoes or Romas) favor the same conditions and generally behave the same and require the same kind of care. I know that brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage all come from the same family and respond to the elements similarly.

I can tell you that, by the Myers-Briggs assessment, I’m an INTJ, on the Enneagram I’m a 5, and by the DiSC I’m a high S. Suddenly, now you have a baseline for my personality, some basic (emphasis on basic) expectations about my default settings to how I respond to stress and what motivates me.

And that’s what I’m looking for in you, to gauge a starting place of how you’re particularly wired. Personally, I’ve found the Enneagram most useful in my own journey of peeling back the layers of who I am and the default ways I respond to God and others.

If that all sounds like alphabet soup, it’s no problem. That’s something we can explore together.

What church community are you a part of? Talk about your level of involvement.

Human beings aren’t made to journey alone. I want to know with whom you’re journeying. Spiritual direction is one piece of what God is doing in your life. What are the other pieces? Whose sheep are you? What’s your web of relationships with other Christians look like? Who do you belong to? Who are you accountable to? Who are you with?

It may be that you just moved to the area and aren’t yet connected with a church. That’s okay. That’s your journey right now.

It may be that you’ve been happily connected with your church for 30 years. That’s okay. That’s your journey right now.

It may be you’ve drifted in and out of churches and never really settled down. That’s okay. That’s your journey right now.

I simply want to know what your journey is right now.

Have you experienced spiritual direction in the past? Are you currently meeting with a spiritual director? Describe your experience.

Some of you may be discovering spiritual direction for the very first time. Some of you may have experienced direction in multiple settings. Perhaps you met with a director for a season and it just wasn’t a good fit. Maybe they didn’t share your core values. Or maybe they weren’t a good listener or broke confidence. Whatever your experience, whether a veteran or a rookie, all of that is helpful in establishing a new relationship with a spiritual director.

What are you currently hoping for in meeting with a director?

And here really is the million dollar question. This is Jesus asking blind Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”

For you, what is spiritual direction for? Where do you hurt? What are you hungry for? What do you want from God right now? These are all things you need to say out loud for your own sake, but also to clearly communicate with your potential director so that both of you are on the same page.

What questions do you have about spiritual direction?

In one way, a first spiritual direction meeting is a lot like a job interview and you’re the one doing the interviewing. Thus far, I’ve shared questions I typically ask, but in a first meeting, the directee should have ample space to ask questions. And there are no stupid questions.

And all of the above questions are fair game to ask a director: Whose sheep are you? Are you connected to a church? Do you meet with a director? What do you get out of this?

You want to be clear on expectations for all of the why’s, and you also want to be clear on the how’s, the housekeeping, practical things like scheduling and payment and how often to meet and where. There may also be theological issues that are important to you and that you want to be sure you share. Three commitments I always communicate to new directees are my confidentiality, my presence, and my prayers.

You want to walk away from your first session knowing that this director is someone who is trustworthy, who is someone you feel can help you on your journey. That’s your task in a first meeting.

If you’re ready to set up a first session, you can fill out this contact form or go to Spiritual Directors International to find a director in your area.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to the newsletter. I write stuff there that doesn’t show up on the blog. You’ll get a weekly Bible reading plan, as well as some other resources I find that have got me thinking each week.

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7 Reasons You Want a Spiritual Director

The spiritual life is a journey. Don’t do it alone.

The first time my wife found out she was pregnant, the first thing she did was tell me. The second thing she did was go straight to the internet. She started searching “midwives.”

See, she knew something was going on inside of her, something she’d never experienced before, and she needed help. She needed someone who had been through the experience before hundreds of times, someone who could handle her barrage of questions, someone who could help her discern the normal-weird from the weird-weird. Someone with experience bringing life into the world.

The image of a midwife is actually a pretty good image for a spiritual director. There’s something going on inside of you and a good director helps bring that into full view for you and the entire world.

If you find yourself in any of these seven situations, then the a spiritual director is exactly what you’re looking for.

You’re hungry to go deeper with God.

Snickers has this ad campaign: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” And it’s true. You’re not. You might very well be aware of a sincere desire for God. And you might seek out a director because you know exactly what you’re looking for.

But you also might be experience life out-of-sorts. Things are out of balance, and you just don’t have the words for what’s going on. You’re not you when you’re hungry.

You’re a spiritual leader to people

You might be a pastor. You might be a program director. Maybe you run a faith-based non-profit. Maybe you work on staff at a church or a Christian ministry or business. People look to you to have it all together, to have answers.

Any time I fly, we go through this ritual of rehearsing what happens when the cockpit loses air pressure. Put the mask on yourself before helping the person next to you. People drawn to ministry typically find it easy to help others and neglect taking care of themselves. If your work involves constantly pouring yourself out on behalf of other people, you need a plan for taking care of yourself. Meeting regularly with a spiritual director can be an important piece in a self-care plan.

You’re going through a life transition.

You’ve moved. You’ve just had another kid. You’re changing jobs. You’re retiring. You just got married. You just got divorced. One way or another, your rhythm and routine has been upset. Life has this stubborn way of never standing still. And it has a way of throwing curveballs at us that we never prepared for. A spiritual director helps keep us focused on God’s presence, that whatever is happening, God is shaping us through it and new opportunities are right in front of us.

You’re on the edge (even over the edge) of burnout.

I still remember my first panic attack. I was walking through the halls of the church, mid week, on my way back to my office. I couldn’t breathe. Gravity suddenly felt like it was turned up to 11. Thankfully, I had a healthy support group to fall into and a helpful director to process everything that was going on.

There are very real consequences when you give and give and give and don’t take care of yourself. Even people in ministry are capable of terrible decisions that wreak havoc on themselves and all those around them. Having a spiritual director can make a difference noticing the symptoms of burnout and also be a place of healing, rest, and reconciliation.

You need a safe place for your questions.

If you find yourself in a place where certainty rules the day and questions about faith and doubt aren’t welcome, a spiritual director can be a safe place to bring those questions. Sessions are confidential. Sometimes simply saying the questions out loud in the presence of someone else makes them seem much less scary. Sometimes a spiritual director won’t have the answer, but a good director will provoke to get at the question behind the question. It’s a place of non-judgment and open discovery together.

You want a better understanding of your calling.

You are a gift. And you have a gift. Finding that place where you have the words for it and where you’re comfortable in your own skin isn’t always so easy. Spiritual direction can be a place of exploring just who exactly you are to be and discover what dent you were made to put in the universe and how you can participate in God’s mission.

You feel stuck in your spiritual life.

There are days where it feels like God is so close you can feel it. Like a tangible substance. And then there are days where it just feels like God forgot to show up at all. And then there are whole seasons that feel that way. Sometimes God speaks. And sometimes God is silent. A spiritual director helps keep things in perspective and provides a place of encouragement when the well is dry.

You’ve been burned by church.

Can we be real? Sometimes people do and say awful things to one another within the context of church. It’s a tragic thing. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been on the receiving end of it. Sometimes the church is a terribly disappointing place to be.

Spiritual direction can be a place to be reminded that God is not that church, that God is not people who hurt. It can be a place of acknowledging the wounds. It can be a place of acknowledging where reconciliation needs to be sought. It can be a place of being open to God’s healing and redemption.

If any of these resonate with you, I’d recommend filling out this contact form for a free consultation, or you can check out Spiritual Directors International to find a director in your area.

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