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Spiritual Director

Feb 21, 2017 | 0 comments

Feb 21, 2017 | Essays | 0 comments

5/5 - (2 votes)

Experience with a Spiritual Director

Introduction

Demarest[1] defined spiritual direction as an opportunity to make a reflection with a spiritual director who is qualified about your life, its relationship with others and God, and its events. A spiritual director assists an individual in leading a more meaningful life by helping them discover a lasting and deep relationship with God. The spiritual direction focus is the relationship between the experience of the directee of God. The director will assist the directee to notice the movement of God in prayers and the events and circumstances of one’s life. Barry[2] asserted that a spiritual director is a personal companion in the journey of life. He/she asks reflective questions and point out resources. Furthermore, the helps with roadblocks and resistance, helping the directee to succeed in their relationship with the almighty God, and its consequences lived. The essay will discuss what an experience with a spiritual director would be like, where my personal experience will be a reference.

My experience with spiritual directors

When I began to explore multiple contemplative spirituality facets, I developed an interest in the idea of having a spiritual director and what it would play in my spiritual walk. As it has been for many years, I desired to have a companion to walk with me through this journey and could also help me depending on my spiritual life to become the intended person God wanted me to be. It was also apparent to me that most of the people who I know and whose spiritual hunger and depth impressed me most were engaged with their spiritual directors.

I had a profound desire and longing to grow and wanted to be responsible for this part of my life. Furthermore, I did not accept that it is beneficial to have spiritual direction, and then fail to do anything about it. To make it worse, I did not want to believe that it was important for other people whom I minister to some time, but not important for me.

After much consultation with a personal friend who was experienced and trained as a spiritual director, I chose him to be my first spiritual director in life. She was a mature and wonderful Christian who assisted me in shaping up my prayer life. From that time, I have encountered many spiritual directors in my life, each of who has helped me in spiritual growth and added another new dimension in different ways to my life.

My first spiritual director practiced and was introduced to be a form of spiritual direction that majorly focused on traditional disciplines and spiritual discernment. These include daily exercises to assist me in hearing more deeply the voice of God every day. My second spiritual director who followed concentrated more on emergent spiritual direction philosophies. This took more in-depth scrutiny of the feelings, situations, observations, and thoughts that are currently happening. The time we spent together was about exploring the facets of hearing and assisting me to understand who I really was, and how God could transform me.

The spiritual directors have been insightful and discerning, assisting determine the movement of God in my life. Ford[3] asserted that in spiritual direction, Holy Spirit is the real director and the spiritual director’s role is to be attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit in the life of the directee. According to Ford,[4] the work of the spiritual director is not to mentor, counsel, or to provide therapy. The main focus is to discover and to respond to God in the life course. Counseling, on the other hand, the focus is on addressing problems in the life of a person and finding resolutions that are healthy to the identified specific issues.

My experience with my spiritual directors has been beneficial to me enormously. There has been a great and distinct change in how I discern the spirit of God in my life and the manner I view each day. Moreover, I have become more alert and open to the interruptions of the Holy Spirit that are surprising, and I am more willing to face my own impulses and reactions, and what they teach me especially about myself. Moreover, I am even more focused on developing myself as opposed to the development of competencies and performance.

Similarly, having a spiritual director has helped me to focus on the ministry and in my life. It continually reminds me to be prayerful and making it the center of everything that I do. Through spiritual direction, it has opened up my deeper understanding of who I am before God and in prayer. I have also been taught and learned different modes of saying a word of prayer, which gives me peace. Furthermore, spiritual direction opened me up to many different great spiritual writers such as Teressa of Avila, St John of the Cross, Meister Elkhart, and Brother Laurence.

Understanding the Spirit

In spiritual direction, the primary purpose Is to focus on the relationship of the directee with God as it is challenged and experienced in all aspects of the life of the person. The spiritual director offer suggestions, ask questions, support or challenge the directee but in the end, it is the directee mho decides on what takes place in a session, and with the Holy Spirit guidance, decides on the course of action and outcomes. Additionally, spiritual direction takes place always in spiritual intimacy and an attitude of prayer[5].

Birmingham et al[6] pointed out that initially, in every session, the spiritual director will assist the directee in identifying where God is directing his or her life, and then makes an exploration of the issue with the directee in the course of the session. Some of the areas addressed in spiritual direction as suggested by Birmingham et al[7]  include listening and responding to God, learning about prayer more, discernment when making decisions, and being aware of the workings of God.

My experience for many years has been whatever I bring to the spiritual direction session, always lead to gaps that have never given any consideration. I am amazed that where the Holy Spirit has led is truly where I desired to be led to, and also into areas that I strongly desired to focus on. For many years I have not always been quick in recognizing God’s intimate and continual presence in my life. For the past few years, I have been blessed with wise, capable, and insightful spiritual directors who compassionately listen and respond to me with care. I believe regular spiritual direction with my mentors is a necessity to my spiritual life as nourishments; air and water are for the body.

According to Demarest,[8] the spiritual director also helps the directee to become more responsive and be aware of the real God’s presence. That is both in both religious activities and also in the routine and ordinary daily circumstances of life. In the spiritual discussion, Demarest[9] indicated that anything discussed will always be done from the perspective of the directees relationship with God, although there is nothing wrong if the directee brings any topic in the spiritual conversation. As Barry [10] asserted, spiritual direction helps me very much to move away from the busy life, and then contemplate the presence of God in my life and what He is saying to me. This makes me mindful always- in sorrow, joy, failure, and success- for the grace on me that I may overlook at even take for granted.

Choosing a spiritual director

Barry[11] advised that when looking for a spiritual director, a person should look for a person who has been trained in spiritual direction and therefore have the skills. After making contact with the director, it is also advisable to have about two to three direction sessions to see if you can relate well with each other. However, if there is no compatibility amongst you two, then finish the relationship and look out for other spiritual directors. One of the important things to look for and expect from the director is a person who is mature spiritually with well-developed prayer life, is in touch, and discerning with God.

Spiritual directors according to Barry,[12] are needed by people all the time. They are part of the people’s spiritual disciplines, and they are particularly important when a director needs to make major decisions, or a crisis has happened in their lives. Moreover, any age group is free to take part in spiritual direction.

Lastly, being well versed in psychology is also important. This way the spiritual director will have an understanding of the characters and temperaments, the human personality influences are subjected, and the emotional functions in the life of a person. Furthermore, Ford[13] elaborated that the director should have some basic abnormal psychology principles and psychiatry. This will help recognize emotional or nervous disorders and mental imbalance.

What to talk about during a spiritual direction

Basically after making the right choice of the spiritual director, and ready to begin the journey of spiritual direction, there are certain things a directee can discuss with the director. Houdek[14] elaborated some of them;

  1. Directee’s prayer life- the spiritual director will get to know the meaning of prayer to the directee, how they pray, how long and when, what takes place when the directee pray, how the directee perceive and imagine  God when they pray and how they address God. Suggestions can also be made for the directee and even by the director and even assist in finding the right prayer.
  2. The decision faced by the directee- the director will help in spiritual discernment
  3. Directees personal relationships- the director can talk about the people they love and love them back. Important people in their lives, how God gets revealed through some of the people in the life of the directee
  4. The directees relationship with the believer’s body- that is the experience of the directee in the communal worship, and also their involvement in different ministries.

 

References

Demarest, Bruce A. Soul Guide: Following Jesus As Spiritual Director. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress, 2003.

Barry, William A. Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God: A Theological Inquiry. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2004.

Barry, William A., and William J. Connolly. The Practice of Spiritual Direction. New York: Seabury Press, 1982.

Ford, Paul Francis. C.S. Lewis, Ecumenical Spiritual Director: A Study of His Experience and Theology of Prayer and Discernment in the Process of Becoming a Self. Thesis (Ph. D.)–Fuller Theological Seminary, 1987, 1987.

Houdek, Francis Joseph. Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction. Chicago, Ill: Loyola University Press, 1996.

Birmingham, Madeline, and William J. Connolly. Witnessing to the Fire: Spiritual Direction and the Development of Directors, One Center’s Experience. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1994.

 

 

[1] Demarest, Bruce A. Soul Guide: Following Jesus As Spiritual Director. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress, 2003.

[2]Barry, William A. Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God: A Theological Inquiry. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2004.

[3] Ford, Paul Francis. C.S. Lewis, Ecumenical Spiritual Director: A Study of His Experience and Theology of Prayer and Discernment in the Process of Becoming a Self. Thesis (Ph. D.)–Fuller Theological Seminary, 1987, 1987.

[4] Ibid., 56

[5]Houdek, Francis Joseph. Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction. Chicago, Ill: Loyola University Press, 1996.

[6] Birmingham, Madeline, and William J. Connolly. Witnessing to the Fire: Spiritual Direction and the Development of Directors, One Center’s Experience. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1994.

[7] Ibid., 227

[8]Demarest, Bruce A. Soul Guide: Following Jesus As Spiritual Director. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress, 2003.

 

[9] Ibid., 118

[10] Barry, William A. Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God: A Theological Inquiry. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2004.

[11] Barry, William A., and William J. Connolly. The Practice of Spiritual Direction. New York: Seabury Press, 1982.

[12] Ibid., 228

[13] Ford, Paul Francis. C.S. Lewis, Ecumenical Spiritual Director: A Study of His Experience and Theology of Prayer and Discernment in the Process of Becoming a Self. Thesis (Ph. D.)–Fuller Theological Seminary, 1987, 1987.

[14] Houdek, Francis Joseph. Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction. Chicago, Ill: Loyola University Press, 1996.

 

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