Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Eugene Peterson wrote, “It is easier to find guides, someone to tell you what to do, than someone to be with you in a discerning, prayerful companionship as you work it out yourself. This is what spiritual direction is.”
If you noticed in my introduction, I speak to my background in communication, spiritual direction, and ministry. And recently, I was asked, “What is spiritual direction? How is that different from coaching?” And so I wanted to set some time aside today to address that question, along with some other commonly asked questions.
In my own experience, I have found spiritual direction to be a great help to me in that I have someone to simply sit with me in the silence, to prayerfully listen to what is stirring in my heart, and not to have any specific agenda we are working toward. We’re just… together. In God’s presence. Seeking Him.
That is why I have done my own training in spiritual direction and why I incorporate it into the work I do. I know how helpful it can be to have someone sit with you in the unknowns. In the healing. In the questioning.
You might be wondering why we talk about direction and discernment on this podcast, which is focused on encouraging and caring for those who are hurting. And there are two reasons for that. First, I’ve found that I am not very encouraging if I’m not staying close to Jesus. Can you relate? It’s important for us to nurture our relationship with God so that we’re giving out of what He gives us. We love with His love. We extend mercy with His mercy. Second, caring for those who are hurting requires listening to God’s nudges and responding to those. He lets you know when to reach out, and when not to. He guides you in who to focus your energy and attention on, who needs your compassion and care.
And so today, I’ll address a few questions in-depth as a sort of introduction to spiritual direction, and then I’ll answer some more in a lightning-round sort of fashion. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you’ll reach out and schedule a Spiritual Direction Discernment Session. You can do that at lovedoesthat.org/spiritualdirection.
Okay, so here we go.
Question 1: What is spiritual direction and why do I need it?
Simply put, spiritual direction is the practice of listening to God together. It’s about becoming more aware of His presence and movement in your life. It’s about growing in your relationship with Him.
As David Brenner writes, “What exactly do spiritual directors do? The simple and most direct answer I can give is that they help others attend to God’s presence and revelation and prepare to respond to him. In other words, they help people attune themselves to God.”
Do you remember the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing? There’s a line that says, “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” We are often not “in tune” with what God is doing in our lives. We overlook Him. We miss Him.
I love how Ellie Holcomb puts it:
“And, oh, how my heart needs tuning! I forget His goodness. I forget there are ‘streams of mercy, never ceasing.’ I forget that I’m already accepted, covered, held, known, beloved. And when I forget that I’m His cherished daughter, I start hustling for my worth. Grasping for ‘good’ as if I don’t already have access to the Giver of every good thing… I’d never play a song with an out of tune guitar, but so often (too often) I am willing to live with a heart that is out of tune. Dissonant. Fearful. Discontent. Ashamed. All because I don’t take the time to restore my heart to its rightful place, to a place of gratitude for a Love that will never leave me.”
My friend, God is there with you. And He wants to speak to you. He wants to share His heart with you. Are you tuned to Him? Do you see Him? Do you hear Him? Spiritual direction can help you sense His presence and hear His voice, both in the big moments and in the everyday of life.
And sometimes we need help hearing from God. We want someone there to listen with us. To be present with us. In spiritual direction, you have someone to help you listen to God and identify how He speaks to you, how He pursues you, and how you can respond to Him.
Question 2: When do I need spiritual direction?
Some seek out spiritual direction during particular seasons in their lives. For example, you might need to make a difficult decision, and so you want someone else to pray with you in that and join you in listening to God and how He might be leading you. If you listened to my episode from last week, when I shared about stepping down from children’s ministries to go “all in” with Love Does That, that would be a great example of a time when it might be helpful to have a director.
Or maybe an old wound has resurfaced and you want to bring it before God in a prayerful posture, waiting to see what He has to say about it, to see how He might be using it.
Others seek out spiritual direction because they want to nurture their relationship with God and stay close to Him, and so they incorporate it as a regular practice in their life. I’ve found that it’s particularly helpful for leaders in ministry, to have someone support them in their faith as they support others.
But I do want to make a distinction between needing help and being ready for it. Sometimes we need to seek out a director, coach, or counselor, yet there’s something in our hearts that isn’t quite ready for it. As you consider getting a spiritual director, there are a few things I would ask you to prayerfully reflect on.
First, are you able to come with a spirit of openness? Are you willing to be honest and vulnerable? Spiritual direction is meant to be a safe place to share your frustrations, your doubts, your inability to sense God’s presence. Your spiritual director will listen prayerfully, not shame you, but walk with you in those tender moments and point you back toward our gracious God.
Second, are you ready to receive questions from your director? Questions that don’t just validate what you have shared, but that challenge you and invite you to consider a belief you hold?
If you’re wondering if spiritual direction is something you should seek out right now, simply ask God. Chances are, if it is resonating with you even a little bit, God might be inviting you to pursue Him through spiritual direction.
Question 3: What do you do in a spiritual direction session?
It depends on what you need, but generally, there will be a time of silence, a time for the director to prayerfully listen to whatever you are bringing before God, some time for silence, and some time in prayer. Did I mention there would be some time for silence? That’s because we need the silence in order to slow down and put ourselves in a position to hear from God.
The director will also probably ask you some questions. Some questions might challenge you, some might ask you to dig deeper, some might offer you a different perspective.
Your director might also offer you a spiritual practice to try together, that you would then be able to practice on your own once the session is over. They might also offer a reading, some sort of spiritual writing to help you explore and nurture your relationship with God.
Many bonus episodes of my podcast actually share spiritual practices that might be used in direction. For example, a guided Scripture reading, a meditation, a reflection. You are invited to listen to those as a small taste of what spiritual direction might be like.
Okay, so now, the lightning round. Are you ready?
Question 4: How often do you meet with your spiritual director?
Since spiritual direction is not a program, like discipleship or mentoring can be, there are no set number of sessions. You are welcome to start with one and end there, or you can commit to a longer period of time. Follow God’s direction here.
Question 5: How many sessions do you normally have?
You are the one who determines how often to meet with your director. While many choose to meet every month, others meet weekly, quarterly, or yearly. Find a rhythm that works for you.
Question 6: What’s the history behind spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction, at its core, started in the early church as leaders sent letters to the churches that were being birthed in different communities. These letters were a way to guide and nurture them in their relationship with Christ. Spiritual direction continued as the desert fathers and mothers were sought for counseling.
Later, as monasteries became more prominent, some monks would offer spiritual direction to those outside the monastery who were seeking God and looking to grow closer to Him. It has continued past the Protestant Reformation, and you will find men and women from many denominations offering spiritual direction to others.
Question 7: What’s the difference between spiritual direction, coaching, and counseling?
The truth is, there are many similarities between spiritual direction and things like coaching, counseling, pastoral care, discipleship, and more. All provide some sort of soul care. They share similar characteristics of listening and empathy and a genuine desire to help you in some area of your life.
What characterizes spiritual direction is that there are no strategies, no goals, no agenda. There’s no content plan or teaching. Its focus is on listening. Its focus is on experiencing God. Looking to see where God is moving, what work He is doing in your life and in your heart. As I said at the beginning, it’s about tuning ourselves to His presence and then responding accordingly.
Question 8: What should I look for in a spiritual director?
First, it’s important that you have a good connection with your spiritual director. It needs to be someone you trust and feel comfortable talking with. Realize it can take a bit of time to find the right fit, much like finding a counselor you connect with.
Second, you should look for someone who aligns with your values and beliefs. Identify what is important to you before you get started. Do you want someone from the same denomination? Are you looking for someone who agrees to the core tenants of the faith, but you’re okay with some differences beyond that?
Third, consider what kind of training and experience is important to you. Do you prefer someone who has the official certification and education behind it, or is it okay that they’ve got 20 years of experience but no professional training? Or maybe you want a mix of both?
On the more practical side… You’ll also want someone who can meet with you when you can meet. Check their hours and availability to make sure it’s compatible with yours.
And, consider if you want to meet in person or if a virtual session, such as a Zoom call, is okay. Some spiritual directors might offer one or the other, or they might give you the option to choose.
You should be able to find out a lot just by visiting their website, but also feel free to ask them questions prior to meeting or in a complimentary session, if they offer one.
Question 9: How much does spiritual direction cost?
It depends. Spiritual directors set their own fees, anywhere from a pay-what-you-can donation basis to $150 a session or more. They do this to cover their own costs in offering direction, such as the technology they use and the ongoing training they receive. Also realize that they are committing to being fully present with you during your session, and often before and after.
Be willing to invest in yourself here. In your relationship with God. You invest in other things: books, coaching, counseling, courses, retreats. You’re investing in yourself right now by taking the time to listen to this podcast. Is it worth it to you to invest in your spiritual journey, as well?
Question 10: So, how do I find a spiritual director?
There are a few different methods you could use here.
You can start by asking your family or friends if they know of anyone they can recommend. By starting with those you trust, it’s likely that anyone they recommend would be a good fit for you, too.
You can also do a web search. Use additional terms that will help you filter options, such as “in person” or listing your specific denomination. Be willing to sift and sieve through all the webpages that pop up.
Finally, there are couple of websites that act as a sort of directory for spiritual directors. One is Spiritual Directors International. Another is the Transforming Center. I’ll link to both of those in the show notes below.
So… is this resonating with you? Is God inviting you to seek Him through spiritual direction during this season of your life? If so, I want you to know that I also offer spiritual direction, and I’d love to invite you to book a complimentary Spiritual Direction Discernment Call with me. We’ll talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction, whether that’s meeting with me or not.
You can learn more and schedule your session at lovedoesthat.org/spiritualdirection.
Okay, that’s all for today. I hope and pray that, whether you seek spiritual direction or not, you know that God loves you so very much, and He is present and active in your life. He has things He wants to share with you. And I invite you to keep your eyes, ears, and heart open to what He has to say.
Until next time…
- “It is easier to find guides, someone to tell you what to do, than someone to be with you in a discerning, prayerful companionship as you work it out yourself. This is what spiritual direction is.” (Eugene Peterson)
- “What exactly do spiritual directors do? The simple and most direct answer I can give is that they help others attend to God’s presence and revelation and prepare to respond to him. In other words, they help people attune themselves to God.” (David Brenner)
- “And, oh, how my heart needs tuning! I forget His goodness. I forget there are ‘streams of mercy, never ceasing.’ I forget that I’m already accepted, covered, held, known, beloved. And when I forget that I’m His cherished daughter, I start hustling for my worth. Grasping for ‘good’ as if I don’t already have access to the Giver of every good thing… I’d never play a song with an out of tune guitar, but so often (too often) I am willing to live with a heart that is out of tune. Dissonant. Fearful. Discontent. Ashamed. All because I don’t take the time to restore my heart to its rightful place, to a place of gratitude for a Love that will never leave me.” (Ellie Holcomb)
- Episode 24: An Example in Spiritual Discernment and Decision Making: Going “All In” With Love Does That (http://lovedoesthat.org/24)
- Spiritual Directors International: Find a Spiritual Companion
- Transforming Center: Find a Spiritual Director
Friend, I’d love to encourage you as you encourage others. Here are two ways to get started:
1. SHOP ENCOURAGEMENT + SYMPATHY GIFTS
These are prayerfully-crafted gifts you can share with those you love as tangible expressions of care. Let your friend know she is not alone.
2. SCHEDULE A SPIRITUAL DIRECTION DISCERNMENT CALL
Interested in spiritual direction? Schedule a complimentary Discernment Call where we’ll talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction.