Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that is increasingly re-emerging in our modern age.
A spiritual director is a “soul friend”, someone who walks alongside, as it were, the directee. The spiritual director prayerfully supports the directee. The director offers experience and understanding, as well as insight and discernment.
The aim of spiritual direction is to particularly notice God’s work in the directee’s life. In the Old Testament book of Exodus, in chapter 3, Moses notices the burning bush, but he had to “go over” (it says it twice in the passage) to explore this thing that was happening. In doing that – making the diversion and taking the time to explore this thing happening in his life – Moses became aware of God’s presence and God’s call concerning the next stage of his life.
In spiritual direction the directee does a lot of the talking. The director does a lot of listening. Both do a lot of reflecting. The director is there to help notice, certainly encourage, sometimes challenge, rebuke or comfort the directee. Usually, something will emerge as a particular thought or task that the directee needs to engage with beyond the session. It is up to the directee what to embrace.
The aim of the spiritual director, and of the process of spiritual direction, is to be a positive catalyst in the directee’s spiritual walk with the Lord.
The story of the two disciples walking to Emmaus in Luke chapter 24 provides a helpful picture of what spiritual direction is like in practice.
These two disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus pondering the events of recent times – in particular, Jesus’ public ministry and death, and the rumours that he had risen from the dead. It is a picture of two people seeking to understand God’s actions in this world.
We read in the account that Jesus comes alongside them. At first, he doesn’t reveal who he is to them. Instead, he listens to them, talks to them and, as it turns out, challenges them by revealing the relevance and application of God’s, previously, written word to their lives here and now.
That is a great picture of the art of spiritual direction.
Spiritual direction is not the preserve of those in full time Christian ministry, or special “saintly” people. Anyone who desires to attend to and notice, more clearly, the work of God in their lives is a perfect candidate for spiritual direction.