I have been interesting the concept of spiritual direction for several months now. As with many things I need to read through a number of books and spend a lot of time thinking through things before I am really ready to move further.
So I still have not actually found a spiritual director yet. (I have been going to a spiritual director for about a year now.)
But I am getting closer to understanding what Spiritual Direction is all about. For David Benner, spiritual direction is mostly about prayer. The Spiritual Director is praying for and helping the person receiving the spiritual direction to pray and connect more fully to God.
Benner is a counselor. So he spends some time differentiating Spiritual Direction from counseling.
“…I am concerned about the predominantly therapeutic face of soul care in our culture’s church and society. We have entrusted the care of the inner life of persons to experts who understand their role primarily in problem-solving and therapeutic terms. But therapeutic soul care should not be the model of Christian soul care. Nor should clinically trained professionals be relied on to provide the bulk of such care. While counselors and therapists have an important role to play in restoring wholeness that has been lost, spiritual friends and directors have an equally important role in helping others become all they were intended to be. It is my hope that the predominantly therapeutic face of contemporary Christian soul care will be balanced by an increasingly spiritual one as more Christians offer themselves in relationships of sacred companionship. The care of souls is much too important to be left to clinical professionals.”
Spiritual Direction is less about ‘fixing people’ than joining with them in a spiritual journey. So Benner presents four different models of spiritual direction. The first is the more traditional one of one formal model of spiritual direction. You have a director and you visit with them about once a month relating your spiritual life and prayer to them and the help guide you in your journey.
The second is the spiritual companion. This is more like a deep friendship. It still includes spiritual direction, but it is more mutual direction and there is a relationship that exists beyond the spiritual direction.
The third is the small group spiritual direction model. Benner is in favor of this because he believe that one on one spiritual direction will never be able to reach as many people as need spiritual direction. This is different from a traditional small group but probably more comfortable for many because in spite of the differences from a small group, it still feels familiar.
The fourth model is marriage as spiritual direction. I am most skeptical about this model. But I can see how it would work for some. Like spiritual companions, the marriage model has a relationship that is far beyond the spiritual direction. Benner and his wife have done this mutually (both seeking direction from the other as different intentional sessions). But currently Benner only seeks direction from his wife and she has a separate spiritual director.
Regardless of the method, there are three main goals for spiritual direction. (1) becoming a great lover, (2) becoming whole and holy, and (3) becoming our true self-in-Christ. What impresses me about spiritual direction is that it is a model for spiritual growth that takes seriously growth over a lifetime. It does not require straight line growth or a particular model. Instead it takes seriously the role of community (and the broader church). It is not a model of spiritual growth that is just ‘me and Jesus against the world’.
- Catholic Spiritual Practices: A Treasury of Old and New
- Abba, Give Me a Word: The Path of Spiritual Direction by Roger Owens
- Glittering Images by Susan Howatch (Church of England Series #1) (fiction)
- Glamorous Powers by Susan Howatch (Church of England #2) (fiction)
- Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton
- In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage by Jim Belcher