Growing into spiritual direction

In the midst of teaching a course on spiritual direction, I find myself once again reflecting on my own journey. Spiritual directors tend to be older. There is a wisdom that come with having lived a reflective life over decades and seeing God at work in all of that. I began working full time as a spiritual director at the age of 27. Ten years on, I am still significantly younger than most spiritual directors.

I am deeply indebted to those who journeyed with me in my early twenties. They helped to lay a substantial foundation in teaching me how to notice and how to name the feelings that were going on in me. Occasionally, I encounter people who remind me of the person I might have been if I had not had the opportunity to explore this field. I am reminded of my early struggles to answer that most simple question ‘How are you feeling?’ I really didn’t know how to access that information and I was determined to be ‘fine’.

I would not be who I am today without the years of both giving and receiving spiritual direction. There has been a great gift in growing up as spiritual director. I don’t mean that literally, but certainly the kind of maturation process that takes place as a direct result of grappling with whole complex reality that is life is a real gift. I am grateful that I have been able to watch myself growing into the role, and that I have had the tools of spiritual direction at my disposal as I have grappled with some major life challenges. I am not sure whether I am a better spiritual director now or not, I suspect that I am though, because I am not afraid of sitting through the pain and confusion of life. I understand that it is important to engage with and process the pain, and to engage with and process the joy. It has been a great blessing to be able to watch myself grow into this role. Sometimes I look back to starting at Loyola Hall ten years ago and I wonder what audacity I had, but all that is useful to do now is to look back in gratitude for all that I have learnt along the way.

This brings me to the two most important tools of spiritual direction – the capacity to sit with one’s own journey, and a fundamental belief that God will show up. I believe that both are crucial, and both require vigilant discernment. And I learnt both from sitting with people and listening to their journeys.

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