Spiritual Direction : A brief description
I was talking with a Hungarian friend the other day and found myself trying to describe Spiritual Direction. For most people spiritual direction is not a familiar term and it is not easily defined. Our discussion brought to mind this quote from Larry Crabb’s book “Becoming a True Spiritual Community.” And though my favorite term is David Benner’s use of “Sacred Companion” I thought I might share this quote to give you an idea of what the term “spiritual direction” is all about.
“The phrase “spiritual direction” carries some baggage. I don’t use the term to imply that a director has the authority to tell someone else what to do. I refer, rather, to a mature saint called to serve others by pointing the way to God. Those who instruct others about whom to marry, what passage to read, and how many days to fast are on dangerous ground. They resemble leaders who lord power over their charges, people our Lord did not commend.
But no other term seems to carry less baggage. Spiritual guide has New Age connotations that blur the distinction between biblically informed guidance and whimsical ideas about what the Spirit might be saying, unrelated to what He has already said clearly in Scripture.
Therapist, an excellent word in its historical meaning of minister, smacks too much of the idea of gaining expertise through training. It doesn’t convey the importance of spiritual depth as a primary qualification.
Counselor feels too anemic. A good word, but overused. Everybody counsels.
Mentor and disciple both have mechanistic overtones that miss the fluid dynamics of the Spirit’s sovereign movement.
Elder too often means a person with business savvy and organizational ability.
Pastor conveys an image of someone you see and hear from once a week, and a little more often if you’re in the hospital.
Teacher conjures images of classrooms, overhead projectors, and lecture outlines.
Shepherd comes close and perhaps would do.
But, with reservation, I vote for the term spiritual director.
We are on a journey. Life is a journey toward a land we have not yet seem along a path we sometimes cannot find. It is a journey of the soul toward its destiny and its home. Spiritual directors are men and women who know the Spirit, who trust the Spirit, who by virtue of calling and gifting and self-awareness can see into the workings of the human soul and can direct it toward its end.
They read widely. Perhaps they have degrees in counseling; perhaps-and this might be better-in literature or philosophy. Perhaps they have little formal education. They love the Scriptures, revering them as God’s Word, but they also read novels by Annie Dillard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and John Grisham.
Above all, they do not manage their lives or the lives of others. They live as mystics, sensitive to the reality of Christ in them, anchored in the reality that they are in Christ. They are people who pray.
The training they most value has come from godly men and women, perhaps professors, perhaps pastors, perhaps plumbers or seamstresses, people who spoke to them about prayer and the Trinity and worship and grace. The informality of their most valuable training has taught them to never follow formulas, never to “do” counseling. They instinctively and intuitively engage with people as the Spirit directs them.”