Staring Contest That Is Spiritual Direction

by Vanessa BumbeersI located this post in my blog drafts. It’s worth my reading it as I prepare for the coming days. Even though it’s six years old, it feels relevant!

“If you fall asleep while you’re praying, you are either too busy or you are running from something.”  That’s something my spiritual director told me in one of our earlier sessions almost two years ago.  She was quoting Ignatius.  I thought about that quote for weeks.  I still remember it when I’m struggling to pray, when I’m avoiding prayer, and when I’m tired.

I mentioned in a few posts that I was completing the process of ordination.  Some time after I started pursuing ordination with the C0venant, I started seeing a spiritual director.

Spiritual direction is an ancient practice or discipline where a person seeking direction meets with a director.  It is an old practice, direction.  When I started, it was at the encouragement of our denomination’s Board of Ordered Ministry’s Executive Minister.  I was taking a class on vocation a couple years ago, and I decided I wanted to “enter spiritual direction.”

I had heard about it in seminary.  I read about some of the comparisons between direction and counseling.  I had been in counseling before by then but not in direction.  I sensed that direction would be helpful to me as I sought to fundamentally be a director to others though as a pastor. I’m influenced by Eugene Peterson’s perspective on spiritual direction (prayer and worship leadership) as the pastor’s primary tasks.

Pastoral ministry very much includes this kind of work.  In many instances, I provide spiritual direction to people in my congregation.  There are folks I counsel, but there are certainly folks who I am directing, even if they don’t know the nuances between the two.  Counseling, in a church context, tends to be directive and short-term.  Direction is broader and wider.

Rather than having a problem to fix, the problem is God. The context is not my relationship with my wife or my church leaders. The context is my relationship with God. So that direction becomes an experience in listening for the movement between me and God. It’s an  unending source of moving, dancing, singing, struggling, and silence–my relationship with God–and direction helps me face the movement.

It opens me up to being broader and wider. It opens me.

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