I am halfway through a program to become a spiritual director. It is a program rooted in Ignatian theory, as is the Boorams. As I have been in my program I have been intentionally seeking out Protestant or Evangelical books with similar content to the (Catholic) Ignatian perspectives to help me often understand subtle differences in language or approach that I am blind to. When Faith Becomes Sight, I think it is the best overview of Ignatian spiritual direction for an Evangelical audience that I have read.
The rough structure of When Faith Becomes Sight is to start first by recognizing the signs of God that are already around us. This approach begins with the assumption that God is seeking to communicate with you personally (not individually, but personally.) Signs of God are often subtle, and in a loud world with little silence, we need to develop skills to see and listen. Once we start being able to see the signs of God around us, then we need to develop skills of discernment, which requires that we examine our conscious and unconscious understanding of God. The final section of the book is more directly about the tools of spiritual direction and the lifelong process of discipleship.
When Faith Becomes Sight uses their work as spiritual directors (and their personal history) as examples of what discipleship looks like. I saw as I glanced through some reviews that some people objected to their retelling of scripture. Retelling or immersion in scripture is part of the Ignatian practice of absorbing scripture and then retelling it in ways that the scripture speaks to you. That does not mean that the retellings are the same as scripture, we are always limited in our perspective, and often in trying to make a point, we can distort a passage. That is not a reason to not deeply explore scripture, but instead, it is a reason to develop discernment about how we read scripture and theologically approach the world. And for those that are still skeptical, sermons explicate scripture, not merely read the scripture and sit down. Retelling scripture in your own words is very similar in purpose.
Part of the assumption of Ignatian spiritual direction is that a God will speak and we can understand. Not necessarily in vocal words, but maybe it will be vocal. The point is that Ignatius and many other streams of spiritual direction assume that the Holy Spirit can and will communicate his direction to us. And while we may not be perfect in understanding, with help, we can make a good attempt at discerning God from our own desires, our sin, and satanic interruption.
There is a stream of Christianity that is overtly resistant to this type of hearing from God and I honestly do not know what to do with this type of resistance. Throughout Christian history, the stories of saints and leaders have been a story of God’s direction. My one complaint, and it is a complaint about much of the Evangelical world as well as some within spiritual direction world, is that we are never Chrsitians on our own. Spiritual Direction can, at times, be thought of as equipping the individual for spiritual growth. In my post on All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson, I noted that the Catholic book, Weeds Among the Wheat (also about discernment) is more oriented toward learning discernment in community and having a “Co-discerner…of the call of the Holy Spirit speaking within them.” Similarly, The Examen Prayer by Timothy Gallagher talks about the importance of not just doing the examen as an individual, but having a spiritual director or another person to help work through the results and process of the examen so that you are in a community, not just an invidiual. And all of this assumes that we are in some way connected to a church body.
I am increasingly convinced that spiritual direction (or something similar) is an essential part of being a Christian and discipleship. Our conversion may be through mass evangelism, but we do not grow through mass discipleship, we grow through individualized discipleship. (Not through indivdiualism, but through a mode of discipleship that takes our individual needs and gifts and situation seriously.) So while I do not think every Christian has to have a spiritual director, I believe that everyone needs a community and probably a specific individual that helps them explore their spiritual lives for growth.