In our digital global village, we are constantly bombarded with information. It's easy to get distracted by toys and gadgets, to chase after things without eternal value. Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). We are spiritual beings, and we neglect our souls at our peril.
So how do we combat the myriad “weapons of mass distraction”? How do we tend our souls? One way I have found helpful is to meet with a spiritual director, someone who helps me pay attention to what God is doing in my life. We are not as strong as we think we are; we need other people, we need someone to listen and understand us.
Spiritual direction creates a structured opportunity for spiritual self-care, a space where, in the quiet stillness and company of another, we can grow in intimacy with God. It helps establish a healthy balance between being and doing. It nurtures a deeper spirituality, which can lead to inner freedom and loving service.
Spiritual direction is for anyone who desires to deepen their relationship with God, for those in transition, for those seeking wisdom and discernment. It's important to note that it is not therapy or counselling, although it is confidential. It is not authoritarian or controlling, although it does focus on the individual.
The roots of spiritual direction are found in the early church, when Christians retreated to the desert to find silence and solitude and meet with God. Others followed to seek out their counsel and wisdom. Since then, this ministry has traditionally been offered at monasteries and retreat centres. While once the domain of the Roman Catholic Church, certified spiritual directors can now be found in most Protestant denominations.
Companions on the Journey
My spiritual directors have been companions on my spiritual journey. They have listened non-judgmentally. Through them, God has revealed what is most beautiful and valuable in me, allowed me to see the meaning of my inner pain, freed me to be reconciled to my past, and helped me accept my gifts and limits.
Spiritual direction has been a game-changer for me. My directors have helped me connect with my true purpose, potential and personhood in God. In turn, I have had the rich privilege of being God's conduit in providing the same gift to others. To “listen” another soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.
If God is calling you to go deeper, to pay attention to your soul, consider meeting with a trained spiritual director. They will share ways to nurture your relationship with God, from meditating on hymns, to quiet walks, to spiritual retreats. The accompanying refreshment is like a life-giving stream, glorifying God, benefitting others and enriching self. I leave you with the words of General Albert Orsborn, who has offered me spiritual direction through his poetry:
Light, life and love are in that healing fountain,
All I require to cleanse me and restore;
Flow through my soul, redeem its desert places,
And make a garden there for the Lord I adore.
Major David Ivany is territorial spiritual director and pastoral services officer.
• To obtain a list of spiritual directors in your area, contact Major David Ivany at email@example.com.
• For those interested in this topic, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg is an excellent introduction.