Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is Spiritual Direction?

During Thanksgiving week, I came across one of the best descriptions of Spiritual Direction. I read it in a book: The Art of Pastoring - Ministry without all the Answers by David Hansen

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 10 on Leadership:

"Leadership in friendship: Spiritual Direction
In my pastoral friendships I do spiritual direction. Spiritual Direction is a friendship around spiritual matters which is mutual in love but single direction in its focus upon the spiritual walk of one of the parties. As the spiritual director I am the one who listens, paying attention for the work of God in that person's life, and then I point to it.

The difference between spiritual direction and evangelism is that in evangelism my goal is to give a testimony, while in spiritual direction my goal is to hear a testimony. In evangelism I pray for the opportunity to share the good news, while in spiritual direction I try to help the person understand what happened when he or she received the good news, and what the good news means in his or her life now. Spiritual direction is not an attempt to find faith or create faith; it is an attempt to understand faith. Spiritual direction is faith seeking understanding.

But it is faith seeking understanding in the most specific and personal sense. Spiritual direction is not jawing about theology. It is not discussion about a theological object of faith. It is an intense search in the specific person's life for the Living Subject of faith already at work-- looking for that work, pointing to that work so that the directee can participate in God's work, so that he or she can live in active covenant with God in everyday life.

Most Christians like to theologize. Almost any Christian will be happy to give an opinion of what Jesus meant when he said, "Enter through the narrow gate." Far fewer will come and ask what it means specifically for them to enter through the narrow gate.

The difference between abstract theological discussion with a parishioner and spiritual direction is like the difference between talking about fishing and going fishing. I hasten to add that there is nothing wrong with talking about fishing! But it sure doesn't take long to sort out the people who just like to talk about fishing from those who really fish. Some people don't like getting wet. Nor does it take long in a theological discussion to discern if people just like to talk theology or if they desperately wish to live theologically.

In any case, the best possible analogy to a spiritual director is a fishing guide. The best fishing guides and the best spiritual directors have a lot in common.

It goes without saying that a fishing guide needs to know the skills of fly fishing and needs to know how to teach the skills of fly fishing. A client may know a lot about fly choice, casting, line mending and reading in the water; the client my well be another fishing guide! In fact, I've learned that the best fishing guides allow themselves to be guided by another fishing guide on occasion, to learn new skills and new water and to break out of ruts. Or the client may know almost nothing about fly fishing. In either case, all through the process of guiding, the fishing guide is teaching." pgs. 155 & 156

I believe there is a need for this kind of leadership. I have needed it in my own life. I have been blessed to be the recipient of it. It has come to me in both formal and informal settings. It is a conversation I now offer to others. It is a privilege to do so.

During this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful that I came across this description. I also love that he chose fly fishing as his analogy. It's on my list of things to learn down the road.


Candice said...

Thank you for sharing that definition Cheri. I especially like when he stated that "Spiritual Direction is faith seeking understanding." Also enjoyed the fly fishing analogy.

Unknown said...

Great analogy of spiritual direction and fly fishing. The best fishing guides allowing themselves to be led by another to sharpen themselves and get out of ruts makes lots of sense too. Thanks for sharing! You are a blessing -- to me and others.

Darlene Hixon said...

Cheri, thanks for thinking to send this to me. I loved to read this writer's explanation of spiritual direction. I of course totally concur on his convictions of the masses of humanity that would rather talk about fishing, rather than fish. I pray we will stay in the water the rest of our days. I too am thankful.

I'm going to ponder this for a while.

Shalom with love.


Mike Messerli said...

thanks, that helps to understand more clearly what spiritual direction means. I must admit I have been a little foggy on exactly what it entails, but this helped a lot. Thank you. And, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Joye said...

Thanks for your post, Cheri. I'm going to be praying that God will bring opportunities to listen for ways to direct others and to listen when I receive direction.