Don’t ask me why Siri would send me to the middle of an open field when I asked her for directions to the nearest Target. And, don’t get me started on how she confuses “Call Mom” with “Did you say, find store hours for Cracker Barrel?”
By now we all know we might have to take that little extra step to get to where we’re going. The real question I’ve found myself asking lately is not so much where I am going, but rather where am I right now with God? Don’t get me wrong; I’m very much interested in knowing areas in my life that God might be calling me to act. But, I’ve had trouble wrapping my head around how to really know if it’s God’s voice, or if it’s mine.
For the first time in my life, I’ve started seeing a Spiritual Director. The experience is still very new for me, so I won’t claim to be an expert. I can, however, share with you how impactful it’s already been on my life.
Maybe you’re wondering what Spiritual Direction is? It’s often been confused with counseling, or even equated to talking to a faithful friend for faith advice. Neither counseling nor getting advice from a faithful friend is the same as Spiritual Direction, though both of these things have been blessings in my life before! Spiritual Directors aren’t really meant to advise you on what to do or what decisions to make, per se, but they can help you see what God might be doing in your spiritual life.
In reality Spiritual Directors should receive real quality training, such as through the Heart of Christ Spiritual Direction Program. Through this sort of training, the Spiritual Director is equipped to “help another Christian pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.” (William A. Barry and William J Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction)
Here are a few key things to know about Spiritual Direction:
· Spiritual direction focuses on religious experience. It is concerned with a person’s actual experience of a relationship with God.
· Spiritual direction is about a relationship. The religious experience is not isolated, nor does it consist of extraordinary events. It is what happens in an ongoing relationship between the person and God. Most often this is a relationship that is experienced in prayer.
· Spiritual direction is a relationship that is going somewhere. God is leading the person to deeper faith and more generous service. The spiritual director asks not just “what is happening? but “what is moving forward?”
· The real spiritual director is God. God touches the human heart directly. The human spiritual director does not “direct” in the sense of giving advice and solving problems. Rather, the director helps a person respond to God’s invitation to a deeper relationship.
Since seeing my Spiritual Director for the first time a little over a month ago, I’ve been journaling any internal movements during my “prescribed” scriptural prayers, similar to a lectio divina. Don’t be impressed, sometimes I journal about the way I felt distracted or even apprehensive about starting the exercise. It’s crazy how every time I get into the scripture, I never regret spending my time that way.
My Spiritual Director explained to me that by reading the scripture and journaling my experience, I will begin to become familiar with the voice of God, alive in scripture. By growing more familiar with the voice of God in scripture, I will be able to recognize the voice of God in my every day life. Since starting, I’ve noticed this persistence growing inside of me. Who wouldn’t want to recognize the voice of God while you’re at Target? I swear I’m not obsessed with Target. I think you get the idea though.
I’m excited to have started this journey, because I’m realizing that ultimately my destination is greater intimacy with God. If you’re looking to better recognize the voice of God in your life, I highly recommend finding a Spiritual Director. I was first inspired by this podcast by Father Timothy Gallagher, Discerning the Will of God in Everyday Life, and then through the grace of God I was led to the right Spiritual Director for me.