SD: Trendy Fad or Pathway to Jesus

In my last post I shared that I am working toward certification to practice Spiritual Direction. I’m enrolled in a program called Sustainable Faith that is “a collective of Spiritual Directors and pastors working to create a spiritually healthy culture among leaders and their communities.”

If you have been listening to Mike Cosper’s CT Podcast “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Church”, then very little explaining of why that matters is necessary. Character matters in our leadership, in our communities and as people who bear the name of our Savior in calling ourselves Christians.

Spiritual Direction is not a new thing (though it may be unfamiliar to us as modern Christ followers depending on denomination). It has existed for as long as the Church has existed. SD is also called “the care of souls”. It is the ministry of companioning another Christ follower on their journey to wholeness in Christ. It is not discipleship, mentoring, or teaching. Though the term “director” makes it sound as if there are those elements in the relationship, it’s more true to say that a director points to what is already happening in the life of their companion and helps them attend to those things. The real work is happening between the Holy Spirit and the Directee.

Margaret Guenther describes it in her book, Holy Listening, like a mid-wife attending to a woman in labor. The mid-wife’s job is not to deliver the child, but to attend to the woman who IS delivering the child. The mid-wife comforts, assures, validates, directs and attends to the woman doing the work so that she is guided through the birth to attain the prize she labors to receive. The Spiritual Director is like the mid-wife.

Dallas Willard’s wife Jane was a Spiritual Director. In Jim Wilder’s book, Renovated, Willard is quoted saying that ages ago the Church was the place where souls were cared for and attended to. Our modern views have changed this so that now the medical/psychiatric fields are the place that bears the burden. While counseling and the care of the mind are tremendously valuable, the medical and psychiatric fields are ill equipped to answer spiritual questions.

Today, Pastors are tasked with teaching people the ways of Jesus through Biblical exegesis, pastoral counseling, and leading people in a community of believers. But they rarely have the time (or the training frankly) to sit and slowly talk with a person about their lived spiritual experiences. The modern churches answer for that issue is small groups. While all of these elements are necessary and good, there is so much more depth available to us as people of God!

Additionally, for women, there is an added element of challenge here. For those who have grown up or been raised in the Church, most denominations have not held places of leadership where women are welcome to serve. The challenge comes in for women in those denominations when they long to grow in the depth of their relationship with Jesus, and yet they are prevented from certain circles (And not because they are not qualified). Most academic and theology books are written by men, and approached from a man’s experience of faith. More and more women have humbly stepped forward and begun to share their very different, educated perspective and lived experience; it has added richness and depth to our communal understanding of faith, hope and love lived out in this life. Their books, their stories and their lived experiences are out there and yet they are not what is utilized to teach people IN the Church.

Spiritual Direction is the place where men AND women are equally welcomed, loved and valued. Where their experience of faith is attended to and cared for so that what is already happening within them, the work that they and God are doing together, can be born and joyfully received.

We ALL need a place to explore our spiritual questions and longings within us. God has something to say to us because we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. His sheep know His voice. SD is a guide and a place where someone is trained to help you walk in those ways.

So, back to my question. Is Spiritual Direction a trendy fad? Thousands of years of this practice, countless books and our deep need for a place to explore areas of the Soul and the Spirit would argue that it is a pathway to Jesus. Our American rugged individualism and independence does us little favors in the areas of faith and soul care.

Spiritual Direction is for all who seek greater closeness with Jesus and all who long to attend to matters of the soul. To find a Spiritual Director in your community, follow the links from my last post.