Monday, January 31, 2011

Wait, wait, there's still time...why spiritual direction matters to clergy

Toward the end of Working the Angles, Eugene Peterson touched on the changes he noticed when he began meeting with a Spiritual Director.

First, he experienced an increase in spontaneity. someone was now shouldering part of load to attend to his spiritual condition, assessing health and pathology. It wasn't just his responsibility. I take this to also mean that he could also afford to be less super serious.

Second, in spiritual direction, he found more concern for who he was as a person, not what he did (and I add not what someone else wanted or needed from him). He could bring the totally mundane and ordinary stuff to the spiritual director and not bore others with the nuances of his every day life. The third thing Peterson mentions is the immediacy and timing and intimacy of a conversation- as opposed to reading the pages of a book, albeit a spiritual classic. This is not to say that spiritual reading is unimportant- it just cannot offer what spiritual direction can.

What I like most about spiritual direction is its ongoing call to live life at a deeper level, where the water currents are stronger and more life-giving. For the pastor who works, ministers, and lives from crisis to crisis, that invitation is very attractive. Because pastors do think in terms of the next crisis. Thank God, we share many joyful moments with others too. Yet spiritual direction offers an invitation to not be so driven by the extremes of crisis and jubilation. We can easily feed off of these two poles. Does that really work long term? No, life is mostly made up of faithfulness and love on just another Monday, the content of spiritual direction.

In our relationships too, it's just not fair to expect spouse, child, parent, friend, or parishioner to provide for us what a spiritual director is trained and called and equipped to do: listen to the stirrings of our spirit, and to pray with us and for us. We do this in a setting where the wisdom offered is for our spiritual benefit, where we are the recipient and not the initiator and provider.

If you do not have someone in your life who can listen to you in this way, whether or not you have a spiritual director, the easy suggestion is to find someone who can. It is normal to speak with several spiritual directors before finding one that will work best for you. Take your time- there is no crisis, remember? Besides, it's only January 31, 2011, which means your search can begin while it is officially a new year!

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