By Melanie Wolf, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For most, the spiritual journey is full of twists and turns, disappointments and joys, silence and longings, periods of great faith and of deep doubt. One of the most helpful practices for these various seasons of faith is spiritual direction.
Spiritual direction is the sacred practice of meeting with someone (a spiritual director) who seeks to help you explore the spiritual dimension of your life. In Christian spiritual direction, the goal is to help you see, hear, and recognize the voice and movement of God in your life. Spiritual direction distinctly focuses on a relationship with God - discovering, deepening, and responding to that relationship in the various seasons of your faith journey.
The focus of spiritual direction is your present life and what can be learned by paying attention to the everyday stirrings and experiences of the soul. As spiritual director Alice Fryling writes:
“In spiritual direction we look at the truth of our present situation and experience. The question asked is not ‘What should be happening in my life?" but "What is happening in my life?’ We look for God here, now, because the place where we are in our lives is the place where we find God....The present moment, the present set of circumstances, the present relationships in our lives - this is where God lives. This is where God meets us and gives us life. This is where spiritual direction occurs.”
This paying attention to your present life in spiritual direction will often include various spiritual disciplines like silence, journaling, and the Prayer of Examen. A spiritual director will ask questions that help reveal the invitations present in your life and how you might want to respond to them. While spiritual direction can be a helpful tool for any time in your faith journey, it can be particularly helpful in seasons of transition, loss, disorientation, or disillusionment in your faith.
What to expect in spiritual direction:
Spiritual direction appointments are typically 50 minutes in length, once a month.
They will often begin with a few minutes of silence as a way of tuning in to the present and paying attention to the thoughts and feelings you would like to explore.
Spiritual direction will focus on your spiritual longings and relationship with God - exploring the questions and stirrings in your heart, mind, and soul.
As you seek to see, hear, and recognize the voice and movement of God in your life, a spiritual director will invite you to engage in various spiritual disciplines and creative practices.
Richard Foster notes: “Spiritual direction is an interpersonal relationship in which we learn how to grow, live, and love in the spiritual life.”
If spending time paying attention to the longings and questions of your soul and “learning how to grow, live, and love in the spiritual life” sounds desirable in this season of your faith journey - whatever that may be, spiritual direction might be exactly what you need.
Fryling, A. (2009). Seeking God together: An introduction to group spiritual direction. IVP Books.