By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.
The first time I heard the term spiritual director was when I was taking Shalem’s Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats. It’s an 18-month long amazing program that calls you to dig deep within your spirit and live your gifts. Thus, one of the requirements is to have a spiritual director. In my life as a Lutheran, Presbyterian, Quaker I had never run across this concept.
So I asked, what is spiritual direction and what does a spiritual director do? I have heard lots of explanations, many times including mostly what it is not: therapy, counseling, a program, directive, etc.
Have you ever had it happen to you where you have something explained to you by several people in several ways and it still just doesn’t gel? My understanding of spiritual direction came from living it and maybe that’s appropriate. This person is more of a companion, a witness or a spiritual guardrail. As you talk about what is going on in your life, he or she asks you, “Where is God in this? What is your prayer in this? How are you and God?” These guiding questions become your beacon, leading you to the Truth within you.
Spiritual directors do not direct you, they are listening to you so prayerfully that they hear what you sometimes cannot and guide you back to you, weaving God further into the intricacies (both struggles and joys) of your life. It is different from a dear friend with whom you share the depths of your spiritual life. There is something about the fact that they don’t know your daily doings that allows them to be more focused on where God is in your life. He or she is an objective third party and I have so very often been grateful for the contemplative guidance I’ve received.
What has been your experience?