What is a Spiritual Director?

It was about this time last year when I began searching out a spiritual director.

I had first heard about a”spiritual director” while reading Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey by Sharon Garlough Brown. The book is about 4 women who end up at a spiritual retreat center together. While they are all really different, they are all learning some incredible things from one another as they seek God. It’s a fictional story of friendship and healing, but it also weaves in various spiritual formation practices along the way (a marriage of fiction and non-fiction- my new favorite genre!).¬† The woman who leads the workshops at the retreat center is a spiritual director. After I read the book, I thought, wow, I’d really love to talk to that workshop leader. Too bad she’s JUST PRETEND. ūüôā

I soon began researching spiritual directors around my city, and found websites for a few different ones, but none really felt like what I was looking for.

I finally ended up finding a spiritual director through my local church. I was nearly sure they would have no idea what I was talking about¬†when I sent off an email to a woman on staff, asking her¬†if¬†she¬†had ever heard of spiritual directors and if so, did she have any spiritual director recommendations. I was surprised when I received an email back within 24 hours saying that indeed, she knew¬†exactly what I was talking about (she said that some¬†of the staff members meet/have met with them), that she knew¬†several, and that she’d be happy to connect me with one who she thought I’d really like. Well there you go. Evangelical Christianity knows about spiritual directors. Why in the world had I never heard of them before?

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Spiritual directors are often¬†described as spiritual midwives. Sometimes we go through seasons where we sense that something is going on deep within our souls, but we aren’t sure what. Sometimes life is shifting (season of life, geographical location, new career, etc.) and we need to talk¬†out what’s going on in our relationship with God because of it. Sometimes our faith feels funny or uncomfortable or shifting, and we’re not sure what’s going on inside of us or how we can relate to God in this new way. Sometimes we feel like God is really far away and even with all our best efforts of connecting with God (doing all those things that have always worked in the past – Scripture reading, prayer, journaling) nothing is happening. It’s during these times that meeting with a spiritual director may be a really good idea. They walk alongside us, helping to “birth” whatever it is that God is already doing within us. When in¬†labor and delivery, the midwife isn’t actually making anything happen. The laboring momma is doing all of the work. But, the midwife is there to help the momma focus, to give her tips on how to read her body and to recognize what needs to or will be happening next. In the same way, the spiritual director is helping us to read what’s going on inside of our souls, recognize the movement of God, and help us focus on what God is doing.

Spiritual directors are not¬†counselors because they aren’t trying to help remedy a psychological issue or solve a personal or interpersonal problem. They aren’t mentors because they don’t have the day-to-day, life-on-life relationship with us. Instead, they are mature Christians¬†who are gifted in discernment and trained in spiritual formation and who help people discern¬†where God is moving in their¬†life.

In our sessions¬†this year,¬†I’ve been working on understanding how God has wired me and how that affects how I approach God, along with my expectations of what my relationship with God “should” look like. It’s been really healthy and freeing. A lot of “aha!” moments :).

If you want to learn more, or think this might be something of interest to you, I’d recommend reading up on it a little more so that you know what to expect¬†(and not to expect),¬†what to¬†look for in a spiritual director, and some places you may be able to find one.

  • Christianity Today- God Your ‘Spiritual Director’ Yet?¬†: Great overview, the history of spiritual direction, and some recommended resources.
  • Kathy Escobar gives this great visual of the spiritual journey. Once I learned about this, my eyes opened wide, I began to nod and I said, “I see.” I hit the wall and had a hard time figuring out what to do next because I didn’t understand what was going on. Spiritual direction really helps¬†if you get “stuck” in any of these transitions.
  • The ESDA is a great place to start for those who are from an evangelical tradition. I’d also recommend asking your local church leadership.
  • IVP has a whole list of books related to this area. I don’t think you can really go wrong with the books they put out!

Feel free to email me any questions you may have and I’d be happy to do my best to assist in any way!

2 thoughts on “What is a Spiritual Director?

  1. Great post! My youth pastor is now a spiritual director and I took some seminary classes on the subject as well which helped me understand it all better. One class allowed us to meet for spiritual direction during the semester, it was a wonderful experience.

    I’d add, if a local evangelical church isn’t much help, a Catholic Church will likely at least be able to connect you with someone.

    The books I’d recommend: “Spiritual Friendship” (Wendy Miller) or “Spiritual Direction” (Sue Pickering, though it may be harder to get a hold of).

    Equipping Lydia is a ministry in Kentucky that focuses on women and offers Spiritual Direction.
    There are also often silent retreats and things to get connected with..I got to experience one a few months ago at a monastery. It was pretty wonderful.

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