I got a new spiritual director this week.
Life circumstances for both of us had, a couple of years ago, conspired such that my original director and I had to amicably end our “direction relationship.” The next director and I already had a pre-existing friendship which, while lifegiving in many other important ways, did kind of put up some blocks to what can happen in spiritual direction. (A little like being personal friends with your therapist–which I now am with my last therapist which is why I don’t currently have one of those either.)
I’ve been providing spiritual direction to people all year. I belong to a pastors’ support group. I belong to a spiritual directors’ peer supervision group. All of these things are good and essential. And…when I find myself feverishly journaling and unable to unsnarl either my words or the thoughts they give shape to…when I find myself hearing my own story more than a directee’s…when I find myself oversharing about my own struggles in a peer accountability session where one of my peers is to be the focus that month…when I find myself insecure and “needy” around family and friends who love me…
…what I need is a spiritual director. A friend of mine once said, hearing me talk about it, “Well, I don’t know. I think I hear from God pretty well already.”
But…spiritual direction is for people who hear from God pretty well already. I think it is also for people who are not sure if hearing from God is something they’ll ever be able to do–or if God even speaks, let alone to them. I’ve gone back and forth between being both those kinds of people, and spiritual direction helps me, whichever one I am.
A spiritual director is someone trained to listen–to other people’s spirituality, and to God. In our first session, my new spiritual director–whom I had only met one other time, very briefly–listened to my life story for 20 minutes and proceeded to encapsulate it in a phrase which unlocked some new ways for me to perceive some situations I’m currently in, which in turn set in motion something, which just might be a breakthrough.
I was describing spiritual direction to my brother this week, before meeting with this director. Weirdly (it’s weird because I’m not particularly into sports), I said, “It’s like a way to get out of my own head, to hear what’s in it through an audience so I can figure out what’s me and what’s God and what to do with any of it. It’s…kind of like having a referee for my conversation with God.” Two players might have a closer, more personal, take on what’s happening in the game. The ref is not infallible. But the ref will see things from the outside which one (in this case) of the players may not.
If I say “referee,” it may sound like God and I are in conflict or in contest. Well, sometimes we are. But usually that’s just because that’s how I’m playing it. A good spiritual director helps me see how God is really for me, really just trying to help me play the game so that I win it, which can only happen in partnership with Him.
I’ve been reffing games yet playing my own without my own ref for a while. It’s good to have one again. I think it will help me be a better one.
Spiritual direction through the Pilgrimage (where Jennifer A G Layte is the “referee”) costs $50 per session through the end of 2020. At that time, all directees who began paid direction before the end of the year will remain at the $50 rate, while newcomers after January 1 can expect to pay $60 per session. Rates may be prayerfully negotiated and discerned.
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