I have heard it say that the term Spiritual director is a misconception, since it is the Holy Spirit who is truly in charge of the direction. And yet, a spiritual director is a witness to the Holy Spirit at work within the lives of those they minister to. Through awareness, serious reflection and prayer it is a beautiful time to bring one’s heart and mind before God to bear on the events in one’s life and to seek discernment in proceeding further. In this sacred space, it is finding God in the details of life while gaining a glimpse of the bigger picture.
In an analogy, pastor and author, Max Lucado tells the story of a man going on a safari who after hours of seeming to aimlessly walk through the jungle questions his guide. “Where are we going? Is there a map that I can see?” The guide turns to him and says, “If there were- would you understand it? Do you know where you are now?…I am the map follow me and I will bring you there safely”.
That story has remained with me all these years as I too have sought to grapple and at times to take control of the map. Through challenges and trials we then, like the man lost in the jungle, cry out in our frustration asking for direction. In the good times, we can easily forget too that we still need direction foolishly thinking that we can do it all on our own. Where are we? “In a good place” or conversely “in an undesirable setting” and we respond without a depth of understanding as to how or when we even arrived there.
Reflection and prayer at all times is so important to finding direction and God’s presence in our lives. While it is true that this can be done on one’s own, having someone who enters into a spiritual partnership with you to listen, accept and support you on your journey is invaluable. For my part, this trusted relationship is held by Fr. Jim, who will forever carry my immense admiration and appreciation. Right away, I felt a kinship with this deeply spiritual, intellectually curious and reflective priest. Knowing that a priest’s unscheduled time is scarce, he joyfully meets me with patience, understanding and another perspective. I leave recognizing that God has given me a great gift in this time. Whether it be in recognizing the promptings of the Spirit in my week, or the transforming work within- during this time I am getting to know my Father better.
If you are considering asking for continual spiritual direction, or do not know who to ask- this too requires prayer.
There isn’t really a short cut to spiritual growth, and while we might think that is what we want these attempts are short lived. Instead we are asked to trust God in what he is doing and creating us to be. Like Thomas Merton, I am persuaded that
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”