mary_jane.jpgWhat Is Spiritual Direction and What to Expect

Contact Mary Cole at mcole@arumc.org.

Within each of us lies the desire to find meaning & purpose, to discover our true selves, and to grow closer to God and each other.

Spiritual direction encourages you to explore a closer relationship with God.  In the midst of a busy life, many people find it difficult to notice God’s action day to day.  Yet, at the deepest level, all of us long for a more conscious experience of God’s presence and love.  A spiritual director can assist you in fulfilling that desire by serving as a companion on your spiritual journey.  The faith journey is best traveled with companions who enable us to pay attention to God’s personal communication, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with God, and to live out the consequences of that relationship. Spiritual direction invites people to pay attention to how God is at work in every aspect of life by more fully attending to God’s presence and call in all things.  It is reliant upon a theology of the Holy Spirit with the implicit belief that God’s Spirit is alive and active in the world, constantly moving in a person’s life.

To answer questions more in depth, I would like to describe what we would do if you invited me along on your spiritual journey. 

What exactly would be my role as your spiritual director?  You might think of me as a companion walking alongside you on a journey of discovery and growth.  I would offer both guidance and support.  The spiritual journey is best traveled with someone.  Alone, we can so easily get caught up in the tangle of our own minds, keep going over the same ground without reaching any conclusion, miss perspectives on a particular matter, imagine things that cause us fear or worry.  I will help you sort it out, offer feedback but mostly listen with a heartfelt ear.  I will care about you, encourage you and pray for you.   As a spiritual director, it is my task to listen deeply, ask questions related to your experiences of God and point out the movement of the Holy in ways you may not have noticed.  Your real spiritual director is the Holy Spirit, who has been in your life from the beginning and is always prompting you. 

How do you get started?  The process of spiritual direction unfolds gradually over time.  It is a series of conversations, usually an hour or so in length, perhaps once or twice per month.  To enjoy its benefits requires the gift of time.  We begin by asking and responding to various questions about why you are interested in spiritual direction, your present life/spiritual situation and what needs or questions you bring in this season of time.    

Growth in the Spiritual Life.  The overall goal or purpose of our time together is growth in the spiritual life.  But what does that mean and how might we recognize it?  In Galatians 5: 22-23, Paul writes of what are considered to be the “fruits of the Spirit” – the personal transformation that gradually takes place in us if we choose to be led by the Spirit of God.   By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

All great spiritual traditions hold these virtues as ideals.  They can be viewed as traits of an authentic spiritual life and they might be expanded to include: truthfulness, acceptance of self and others, compassion, forgiveness, hopefulness, simplicity, service to others, prayerfulness.  Even those who may not identify themselves as spiritual would most likely say they admire such qualities and would like to be this kind of person themselves. 

So how can you tell if you are experiencing spiritual growth?  Perhaps you are becoming more hopeful, more serene, living more simply, more accepting of your self and others.  Are you less anxious, more trusting?  Do you feel more peaceful?  Are you growing more grounded in the gracious mystery of the Holy?  This is the spiritual life – an adventure of open-ended growth and a project of a lifetime.

In Summary.   I hope that you have a better idea of what happens in the ministry of Spiritual Direction.  The spiritual quest is profoundly rewarding and aims at the heart of what we are created to be.  Yet, it can be a daunting journey.  That is where the benefit of a spiritual director as companion and guide comes in.  We are not meant to make these journeys alone for we need one another for survival and growth in every area of life.  This is especially true in pursuing a healthy spiritual life and caring for one’s soul.  If you desire to grow spiritually, then meeting with a spiritual director will be helpful to you in many ways.  It keeps your spiritual well-being at the forefront of your awareness.  It will make you more accountable to the tending of the garden of your soul.  It will give you an opportunity to take regular stock of your life, looking for how God moves you toward growth in comforting and also challenging ways.  When we meet, we will look for and explore together God’s activity in all the areas of your life.  Spiritual directors serve as agents of harmony, assisting you in weaving together all that you experience in order for you to embrace the joyful, peaceful essence that God created within you.  You can rely on me to listen with loving care and offer the perspective of a fellow traveler. Like you, I too, am a fellow spiritual seeker on the journey.