28
Aug
10

spiritual direction…loving not leading

Faith journeys are about transformation from one manifestation of self to the next, and the next, and the next. The movement is not immediately forward and  outward. First it is downward and inward to the temple each of us has within–the center space fashioned slowly during the time we were incubating in our mother’s womb—or incarnating, if you will. This is my belief, no one has to agree with me. But if you do, or if you are even curious as to where I am going with this, read on.

None of us were born into a perfect world. All of us were birthed from as perfect a place as we humans can provide. It was good inside and we were happy, growing like Topsy. Then…boom! We outgrew our little homes and had to leave. The passage was tough—arduous, exhausting, shocking, but we couldn’t retreat—couldn’t go home again. And so we grew and learned how to manage our growing selves in this new world with its hungers, hazards, and unknowns. Some of us grew simply and  well, while others of us learned to put on many coats—many layers to protect our natural selves so that we could survive and keep on growing. Twenty, thirty, forty years later, we layered ones are pretty well protected…so well protected that we don’t naturally remember who we divinely were at the start.

At some point in time we begin journeying to regain the sonship or daughtership infused in us from the zygotic start. There are many roads, many ways to journey. I’ve done quite a few of them myself. Then, after a profound experience during my cancer treatment, journeying took me back to my Christian beginnings and here I am now at crossroads, stop lights, curves, even detours, but still traveling home where the light shines and the feathered, white bird waits.

Journeying can be arduous and lonely. I have a number of good friends with whom I can share my challenges, but there is something about talking to a professional, specializing in spiritual direction that is different. We commonly think of spiritual direction as guidance or the giving of advice, but it’s not that,  and definitely not psycho therapy…more like a centering experience…a place to gather the frayed edges of one’s road-weary self. We are all on our own unique, kaleidoscopic journeys—all the same and yet so different. It takes a loving heart to hear, but a practiced, dedicated ear to listen deeply.

While participating in the Bridgefolk conference at St. John’s Abbey this summer. I stopped in at the Abbey’s, Liturgical Press bookstore. Among the many titles, a little spiritual memoir by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew caught my eye: Swinging on the Garden Gate. Thumbing through, I found some parallels to my own experience and took the book home with me. What Ms. Andrew says about her own experience of spiritual direction on pages 116 and 117, sums up quite well what I began to say both in my previous post, Spiritual Healing…Art Not Science and continue here in this posting.

…the term spiritual director is misleading. It implies a right and a wrong, or that the director points and the client follows. I desired that model for learning; I wanted to sit at a teacher’s feet to receive words of wisdom, confident that someone more practiced in prayer and discernment would have the answers to my aching questions. But Linda didn’t work that way. Everything you need to know God, she said, you’ve already been given. She trusted completely (far more so than I did) the direction of the spirit’s movement within me. Her role, then, was to provide a container into which I slowly poured the stories of my childhood, adolescence, and my journey in Wales. Together we held them up to the light, looking to see where they were infused with the sacred. Linda’s wisdom, I realized, came not from profound insight so much as her ability to listen deeply. It came from her faith that a story unfolding in a place of love is transformative. As I gradually allowed her to be attentive to my journey, with all its dark, crazy and ecstatic moments, I became more attentive as well. Linda’s integrity and care held me accountable. I had to come forward. Such a safe space demanded it.

A spiritual director learns to listen deeply—not something most of us do on the day-to-day–with either family or friends. This in itself is an artful, spiritual practice of loving self-giving.  In that deep listening the Holy Spirit breathes in and around, weaving a basket that holds our thoughts, feelings, secrets, longings, hopes, dreams…all we have to bring to the table. It’s a safe place—a loving, safety deposit box with a key to wear around your heart.

My journey has become tangled once again. I am in another time of great transition. I look and see fog. One foot in front of the other, step by step toward the light I know will be there once I am there too. I am grateful to have a relationship of spiritual direction that not only blesses me, but blesses the one who deeply listens each time we talk.

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1 Response to “spiritual direction…loving not leading”


  1. 1 Anne
    August 30, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Milestones along the road…or perhaps outposts. Seems you’ve come upon the next one in your journey. This is good.


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