I am not completely sure how I picked up a copy of this. I think maybe it was a giveaway from the author. I don’t think I agreed to review it. But as I was glancing through my books looking for something else, I found a copy of the PDF and I quickly read through it last week. I am one three-page paper short of finishing my certification as a spiritual director, so I am interested in how different people present the concept.
Most protestants are not real familiar with the concept. Generally, I say it is a form of discipleship. Loosely connected to the early desert fathers and how older monks led younger monks into the work of being contemplative once the monastic system was more established. Generally, most Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican priests are required to have a spiritual director. This is someone that helps pay attention to spiritual matters. Post-Vatican II, there arose a new emphasis on spiritual direction and more attention to spiritual direction for laypeople.
I was trained in spiritual direction through an Ignatian stream of spiritual direction. Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises, which was designed originally as a 30-day retreat for people to grow closer to God, often as part of a process of discerning a vocation. I think the best simple definition that I have commonly heard is that spiritual direction is a regular relationship with someone that helps to serve as a second set of ears to hear God’s direction for your life.
John Mabry is a United Church of Christ pastor and spiritual director. There are a number of streams of spiritual direction, some are more ‘directive’ than others. But most programs today lean towards a non-directive spiritual direction, which is how this orientation toward spiritual direction is designed. Mabry using the word ‘client’ instead of directee throughout the book because of his orientation toward non-directive spiritual direction. But I think the term, while more familiar, introduces a connection to psychology and social work. Mabry does clarify how it is different from psychology or social work, but that connection is one reason why I am resistant to the term client. I also think it is worth pointing out that while I call myself a spiritual director, as does Mabry, the work of spiritual direction is the work of God and the Holy Spirit. My work is listening, God’s work is direction and guidance.
Overall I think this is a very helpful introduction. It is brief. I read it in less than 2 hours. The audiobook is only 3 hours. In some ways, I think it may be too long for many that want to explore the idea more casually. But there is room for a 1 page, a 10 page, and a 100-page introduction to spiritual direction. I haven’t found a 1 and 10-page version I really like yet, but there are advantages to each type. I do wish this were a bit cheaper. Right now it is $10 for either the kindle or audiobook version, which is a bit high for 100 pages. I would recommend it a lot more if it were $4-5 range.