What is spiritual direction?

Doreen Miller serves as congregational spiritual director of Gingrichs Mennonite Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. “I am a loved sinner,” she says. “What more could I want in this life?” Doreen is a member of the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network. If you want to learn more about spiritual direction, prayer and other spiritual practices, see Doreen’s blog at eyesarentenough.com

At times, the easiest way to answer this question is to say what spiritual direction is not. A spiritual director is not a counselor or therapist; not a life coach, personal trainer or pastor; not an accountability or prayer partner; and not the same for every person. Spiritual direction is not even very directive!

So, what is spiritual direction? Spiritual direction is an ancient Christian practice very effective for spiritual growth. According to the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Association, “Fundamentally a ministry of prayer, spiritual direction is a one-with-one relationship in which directors accompany others on their journey to mature faith in Christ.” Spiritual direction helps fulfill our desire to really know our triune God.

According to the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association,

“Spiritual direction is a safe place to explore your questions and concerns about your life with God. A Christian spiritual director is a trained listener who will accompany you as you share about your spiritual journey, helping you notice God’s presence and activity along the way, as well as your personal reactions and responses.”

Spiritual directors are encouraging, confidential and care-full listeners who pray for their directees.

God is always communicating with us. The spiritual director helps the directee hear, see, feel and recognize our self-revealing God.

As we see how God is already active in our lives, our relationship with God deepens; we see all of life more clearly; and we get glimpses of how to follow Christ and allow him to love us more fully.

Starting spiritual direction can be a frightening endeavor, as can any decision to really know God. A lot of courage is required to intentionally invite God to enter and indwell us — mind, heart, spirit and body. We experience an unsettled feeling, wondering what in the world this holy yet forgiving, unmanageable yet attentive, huge but tender, unfathomable yet fatherly God has in mind for us.

Generally meeting monthly for about an hour, directees are free to come and go in spiritual direction as they desire. Spiritual directors trust that directees will continue to move toward God (as much as they are able, often in fits and starts) as God is speaking and inviting them. It is not a director’s job to make this happen, just to accompany, support and cheer the process.

So, who would benefit from going to a spiritual director? Anyone who wants to grow in relationship with God! Spiritual direction is particularly helpful for discernment at times of transition. However, meeting with a spiritual director is an opportunity to see God in everyday life; to reflect on past and present life experiences; to revitalize prayer life; to understand oneself better; to explore hopes and dreams; and to hear God’s voice.

So, what is spiritual direction? Perhaps the best answer to this question is found by responding to the invitation Jesus so often gives us, to “come and see.”

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