What is Spiritual Direction?
One of the requirements of joining the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis is having a spiritual director. This can be both a good and a bad thing. It is a good thing because spiritual direction has helped many people to deepen their relationship with God in profound and life changing ways.
The negative side is that because people have to engage in spiritual direction, they don’t always get the best out of their spiritual direction relationship. The other problem is that often people are unsure what spiritual direction is all about, and what it has to offer. This also means they do not get the best out of spiritual direction.
So, what is spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is the ministry of helping people notice God in their lives. Often we are too busy, even our prayer lives are too busy. We get on with what we need to do. In our case, we get on with being Franciscan. And because we are so busy we fail to notice God knocking away saying, "slow down, look over here, take note of me!"
In spiritual direction, people are invited to slow down, put the busyness to one side, and take note. The director helps people to take note of how God is in their prayer life, how God is in their daily lives.
Sometimes we think spiritual direction is about someone telling us what to do, or what to think. But it shouldn’t be about that at all. (If your direction sessions are like this, find a new director) Direction is not so much about giving you information, or answers to questions, as helping you wrestle with the question of God in your life. Spiritual directors don’t give directions, but help you hear what direction God is calling you, or hear who God is calling you to be. It is about helping you know God, deeply, profoundly know God as God wishes to be known by you.
That is why I have been going to spiritual direction now for the last 16 years, well before I became a tertiary. Over those years my directors have helped me take more notice of God in my life, and helped me grow a disciplined but changing prayer life. We meet for about an hour every four to six weeks or so. It is such a joy to have someone to talk to about things I can’t talk about with anyone else. Only once has my director been Anglican. I am more concerned with their skills and calling as a director than about their denomination or whether they are ordained. My present director is a lay Presbyterian, and she is a gift from God.
Finally, what do we talk about? The session is entirely up to me. We talk about whatever I want to talk about, I as the directee decides the topic and what I want out of the session. I have to admit that it is not always easy to know what to talk about.
I have included a list of questions developed by a very experienced director, Andrew Dunn. He has found that his directees have really benefited by focussing on one section in their preparation in coming to see him. I hope that it might be of help to some in the order.