What do you do when you’re struggling to feel God’s love? Or prayer and spiritual disciplines aren’t “working” like they used to? Or you can’t hear God’s voice about a decision you need to make? Or serving the Lord has left you discouraged or over-stressed?
These are important times to talk with a spiritual director.
A spiritual director offers prayerful listening that invites you to create space in your heart to hear God’s voice calling you the beloved, according to Henri Nouwen in his book, Spiritual Direction.
His preferred way of giving and receiving the ministry of spiritual direction was through informal conversations and friendships that were warm, personal, and hospitable. He liked to call this soul friendship.
Nouwen suggested three spiritual direction practices for us:
1. Look within to your heart
Often we hide our true selves by putting out an ideal self, entertaining ourselves, or staying busy all the time.
But in spiritual direction you get real with a soul friend and God. You share feelings, ask hard questions, and seek empathy and help with prayer. You learn to be quiet, listen, and just be.
“Be still and know…” (Psalm 46:10). Do this relationally and you’ll awake to the presence of Christ risen in your heart and in the world around you.
“With practice,” Nouwen writes, “we allow God to enter into our heartbeat and our breathing, into our thoughts and emotions, into our hearing, seeing, touching, and tasting, and into every membrane of our body.”
2. Look to God in the book
Listening to your heart with the help of an empathetic soul friend needs to be balanced by listening to God through meditating on Scripture (the ancient term for this is Lectio Divina).
You let the word descend from your mind into your heart. “Meditation means eating the word, digesting it, and incorporating it concretely into our lives,” Nouwen explains.
“We develop an inner ear that allows us to recognize God’s word that speaks directly to our intimate needs and aspirations.”
3. Look to others in community
When you receive empathy and divine guidance through sharing vulnerably with a spiritual director it provides a pattern that enables you to find and develop other soul friendships like this.
This is an experience of being the body of Christ. As you are loved by one of Christ’s ambassadors you learn to trust the friendship of God (2 Cor. 5:20). This, in turn, strengthens you to be more loving to others.
In each of these three practices the great blessing of meeting with a spiritual director is being formed to be more like Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:19).
(Henri Nouwen quotes are from his book, Spiritual Direction, pp, xv -xx.)
Soul Shepherding has a team of Sr. Spiritual Directors who are available to give you the empathy, guidance, and prayer you need. They’ve been personally trained in our model of spiritual direction that’s Christ-centered and psychologically informed. You can learn more and schedule a time to connect here
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: The ministry of spiritual direction offers opportunities to experience peace, grace, discernment, and the love of God. A spiritual director listens to you as they’re listening to the Holy Spirit and offers gentle guidance. Bill and Kristi help listeners understand the dynamics of spiritual direction and offer next steps for those interested in learning more.