“I am not always quick to recognize God’s continual and intimate presence in my life. Over the past fourteen years I have been blessed with a capable, wise, and insightful director who listens with compassion and responds to me with genuine care. Regular direction at the Spiritual Renewal Center is as necessary to my interior life as water, air and nourishment are for my body.”
Since the Spiritual Renewal Center opened in September of 1978, God’s people in central New York and surrounding areas have been able to find gifted and trained spiritual directors here to assist them in their walk with God. Perhaps you’ve thought about finding a spiritual director yourself, or wanted to know more about what happens in a spiritual direction session. We hope this article might provide helpful information for you about the process and the value of spiritual direction in the Christian life.
“Spiritual direction is not part of my Protestant/Calvinist tradition. Coming to the Spiritual Renewal Center helped me get ‘unstuck’ on my faith journey. My tendency is to mull things over in isolation, sometimes seemingly endlessly: problems with God, struggles in living, choices to make. In spiritual direction, Jim gently encouraged me to sit with God with these things—to make them part of being in God’s presence. The gentle questions and nudges of spiritual direction drew God and me closer.”
What is spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is an ancient ministry in the church. From the earliest days of Christianity, believers have found it to be a benefit and a joy to discuss their spiritual life with another Christian on the journey. Just being able to articulate to another believer our experience of life in the Lord is of immense value in itself, as it is not everyone with whom we can share such an intimate part of who we are, and know that it will be respected and received.
“For many years I have been blessed to receive Spiritual Direction at the Center. During that time my director has encouraged me through troubled times and rejoiced with me in times of celebration. My faith life has been greatly enriched through this special relationship and I am deeply grateful.”
In spiritual direction, the director helps the directee become more aware of and responsive to the real Presence of God—both in those activities called “religious” and in the ordinary and routine circumstances of daily life. While there is nothing that is inappropriate for you to bring to the spiritual direction conversation, anything discussed will always be discussed from the perspective of your relationship with God. This is the unique focus of spiritual direction, and one of the main differences between direction and psychotherapy, or other forms of counseling. As our relationship with God is ongoing, so is spiritual direction ongoing.
“Spiritual Direction helps me to step back from my busy life and contemplate how God is present to me and what God is saying to me. It makes me ever mindful – in joy, sorrow, success, and failure – of the evidences of grace that I might otherwise overlook or take for granted.”
What exactly do you talk about in spiritual direction?
Certainly, your prayer life. Your director will eventually want to know what prayer means to you, how you pray, when and for how long, what it’s like for you, what happens when you pray, how God seems to you when you pray, how you address God, how you imagine God etc. Your director might have suggestions for you, and can help you find a way of prayer that is right for you.
- Any decisions you might be facing. Helping you with spiritual discernment is a major role of the spiritual director.
- Your personal relationships. Talk about the important people in your life, who you love and feel loved by, conflicts you are dealing with, how God is revealed to you through the people in your life etc.
- Your relationship with the body of believers, your experience of communal worship and your involvement in ministry.
- Any personal problems, concerns about your physical health – or anything else! As stated above, whatever you bring up, your director will help you explore from the perspective of your relationship with the Lord.
“As a result of prayer and with the guidance of a gifted spiritual director, I have been able to become more aware of the activity of the Spirit and the presence of God in my life. The result of this awareness has been a deeper and closer relationship with my Creator and an internal peace and harmony that has affected all aspects of my life and my relationships with all those whom God has placed in my life. I am forever thankful for the blessings I have received from the direction I have received at the Spiritual Renewal Center.”
Choosing a spiritual director
A spiritual director is not the same as a confessor, so while certainly you can discuss any areas of sin in your life if you wish, you are not expected to give any kind of regular inventory of sins. Neither is a director someone who will solve your problems for you, but rather one who will help you to look at them in the light of God’s grace.
“I have been a participant in Spiritual Direction for over twelve years. The experience and the process has become one of the foundational ways I am aware of God’s leading and presence in my life. I have learned the joy and importance of sharing my spiritual walk with another person who is also on a spiritual journey. The experience continues to enrich my life. I recommend spiritual direction to every seeker.”
When looking for a spiritual director, seek someone who is mature in the Lord, someone who has a particular gift for the ministry of spiritual direction, and knowledge and training in theology and spirituality. A good background in psychology is also helpful. Personal compatibility is of great importance. Your director must be someone you can trust enough to open up to, someone whose words you would take with great care, whose thoughts and views on life you respect. If you are not reasonably comfortable with your director after several sessions, seek another.
“Through compassionate listening and skilled spiritual counseling, the Spiritual Renewal Center has been an essential part of my spiritual journey. The insight of my spiritual director has helped me to recognize ‘The Holy’ in my life and prayer amidst the blessings and challenges of everyday life. Growth in both self-awareness and the immediacy of a faithful and loving God are outcomes of spiritual direction, which require more than ordinary gratitude!”
If you feel called to pursue direction, begin by considering what you are hoping for from direction, and what type of director you might feel most comfortable with – a man or a woman, younger or older, etc.
“My spiritual direction sessions are very renewing – a monthly ‘spiritual recharge’ that always gives me a positive energy I carry with me into all of my ministerial duties.”
At the Spiritual Renewal Center we can help you connect with a good director – we currently have twenty directors on our staff. If you would like to begin meeting with someone here, or if you have any questions about spiritual direction, contact the Center. Someone from our staff will be happy to speak with you on the phone, or set up an appointment to discuss spiritual direction, and the options available to you.
“I have found that spiritual direction has been an invaluable assistance to my efforts to grow in my understanding of myself, in my relationship with the Lord and in the awareness of the very real way the Spirit is active in this process. During the past several years, this direction has helped me engage with the role my faith plays in dealing with issues that face each one of us. I consider my relationship with my director a true blessing. How fortunate we are in Central New York to have available through the Spiritual Renewal Center so many skilled, caring and faith-filled spiritual directors.”
—Former Catholic priest, businessman
“Direction has helped me to see and feel how God is manifested in our lives in so many different ways. What more of an amazing awareness is there than that?”