Why Consider Spiritual Direction?
Listening for the Spirit Together:
A Conversation with Jeannette Bakke
How do you define spiritual direction? It’s about inviting God’s participation in our lives ever more deeply in ways that bring about our transformation, for God’s sake in the world. It is not “all about me,” but about being and becoming all God invites.
When we enter into spiritual direction as a director or directee, there is a gradual internal change in our values. Directors and directees both listen for the Holy Spirit. We ask for our minds and hearts to care about what God cares about. That’s the invitation of spiritual direction — we seek to notice that God is present in our whole life, not just in one “spiritual” compartment.
Who thinks about seeking spiritual direction?
People who are interested to explore their relationship with God might consider speaking with a Spiritual Director. They may be people who have no faith background, or a background that no longer seems to fit their experience, or have an ongoing faith life.
Why does a person of faith – maybe someone who’s a longtime Christian, an active church member, a regular worshipper – become interested in spiritual direction?
As we grow in our faith, we get hungry. Some people participate in spiritual direction because they want more. They think about their lives, “This is good, but is this all there is? I’d like to invite someone into my prayer because I’m stuck. Maybe I can learn how to listen to God better.”
Others talk with a Spiritual Director because they’ve had a huge loss – a job, a relationship, divorce, death. They’re grieving and asking, “Where is God in all of this? How can I trust God? What’s more, how can I tell God the truth that I don’t trust God anymore?” There aren’t very many places where you can tell the truth – things like, “My prayer life is not working out” or “Yes, I call myself a Christian but reading the Bible is boring.” Spiritual direction is a place where you can tell the truth, tell it how it is and see where it takes you.
Many times someone seeks to talk to a Spiritual Director as part of a decision-making process, digging into discernment over a major decision. They want God to be part of this decision and would like to process it with someone, but they are not asking a Spiritual Director to make that decision for them. A Spiritual Director nonjudgmentally and confidentially and seeks to help you listen to your own heart. You’re listening for the Spirit, together. You’re not inviting another person to tell you what to do.
Some people come because they are having different spiritual experiences. They wonder if this could be God’s invitation and want to talk to someone and investigate their experience. They are yearning for more intimacy with God.
Our super-connected world, always on and always stimulated, is leading people to spiritual direction more and more. People grow tired of the frantic pace of life, the “busyness” of work or church volunteering and activities, and want to stop, take time to be quiet and let God in.
When did you first dip your toe into spiritual direction? For me, it started in 1982 when I was a seminary professor at Bethel. People would come to me, we would pray, I would listen, and God would do things. Then I thought … hmm, I need to take some sort of counseling classes … I don’t want to be dangerous! But I knew counseling wasn’t quite the answer, and I entered a spiritual direction preparation program. When I read the first spiritual direction book, tears began to flow. I felt like I’d “come home.”
Where does Christos fit in? It’s a place to be quiet, to listen, and to nourish your spiritual heart. You may decide to explore spiritual direction by becoming a directee or to discern if God might be inviting you to become a Spiritual Director. Christian spiritual direction started in the Catholic tradition, but Christos adds the Protestant perspective as well. There aren’t many contemplative places and opportunities to sit in the silence and see what God does. We get hungry for that. We often hear people say, “This is just what I was looking for.“ They are burned out, tired, and longing to be more deeply connected to God.
What has all of your spiritual direction work done to transform you? When you’re called to be a Spiritual Director, you’re also a directee all the time. That’s where the growth comes, because you continue to pay attention to the ups and down of life with God. You’re always seeking to live in the most honest space.
In spiritual direction, you grow into greater willingness to be an ordinary person with an extraordinary God. It’s OK to be this ordinary person. This is who we are, it’s not shameful. We recognize that our limited humanity is a gift of God.
How does spiritual direction differ from pastoral counseling?
Pastoral counseling usually revolves around a crisis, and getting “through it.” Spiritual direction is more open-ended. Typical questions in spiritual direction might include, “Where is God in this?” or “Where has God gone and why don’t I sense any divine presence at all?” or “How is God inviting me now?” Spiritual direction is a part of many elements of faith life including preaching, teaching, intercessory prayer, prayer for healing and pastoral counseling, but spiritual direction is also a separate ministry. Excerpted from Holy Invitations, pgs 28-30
Dr. Jeannette Bakke, author of Holy Invitations, is a retired professor of Christian education at Bethel Theological Seminary, and has a certificate in Spiritual Direction from Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation and a D.Min. in Spiritual Direction. She is a presenter in the Christos Tending the Holy Spiritual Direction program. As a Spiritual Director herself, she regularly teaches on the subject for churches and other faith organization groups.