Starting Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Getting Ready, Feeling Safe, and Getting the Most Out of Your Sessions by John Mabry

Summary: Basic introduction to the concept of Spiritual Direction and what to expect before you get started as a spiritual director.

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 and looking for something else, I found a copy of the PDF and 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 really 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 contemplative work once the monastic system was more established. Generally, most Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican priests must have a spiritual director. This is someone who helps pay attention to spiritual matters. Post-Vatican II, a new emphasis arose 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, designed initially as a 30-day retreat for people to grow closer to God, often as part of discerning a vocation. I think the best simple definition I have commonly heard is that spiritual direction is a regular relationship with someone who 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 several streams of spiritual direction; some are more ‘directive’ than others. However, most programs today lean towards a non-directive spiritual direction, which is how this orientation toward spiritual direction is designed. Mabry uses the word ‘client’ instead of directee throughout the book because of his orientation toward a non-directive spiritual direction. But I think the term, while more familiar, introduces a connection to psychology and social work. Mabry clarifies how it differs 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 introduction was very helpful. 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 who 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 much more if it were $4-5.

Starting Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Getting Ready, Feeling Safe, and Getting the Most Out of Your Sessions by John Mabry Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook

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