A couple of years ago I had a drive that challenged and changed my life. Everyone needs a Spiritual Director.
I hate road trips. I hate them even more after driving nearly 1,800 miles this week. If you ever have a chance to drive between Las Crucas, NM and Austin, TX, don’t! But this week’s trip was a good one for me. Actually, it was potentially life-changing. Why? Because I mande this trip with my friend, Don. He is a kind of spiritual director for me and a lot of other men my age. Don is the father of two adult children, works for a non-profit and can afford the time to drive cross-country by virtue of being married to a wonderful woman who is also a physician. But what makes Don special is his honesty. He is honest with others, yes. But his honesty about himself gives his words an authenticity and truthfulness that all of us need in our lives.
As we drove and talked, I unpacked my entire ministry career – successes, learnings, failures, regrets, celebrations, and everything else imaginable. We did the same with my family of origin and my current family. And each subject was wrapped in discussions and processes of spiritual formation. These conversations are far too infrequent in Christian churches where pseudo-spirituality and fluffy-likability are exalted over genuine struggle and grasping for God. This is where spiritual direction can be helpful. As I reflect on the drive, I am reminded why everyone needs a spiritual director.
- Someone With Whom He/She Can Be Completely Honest. Much of our world, and even more of our church, is consumed with appearance, popularity, and making an impression. That causes us to shade the truth; to attempt to look better than we are. We take some accomplishments and embellish them while minimizing major deficits of character and personality. By doing so, we rob ourselves of development because we have failed to be honest about who we are. Therefore, we cannot become better. If you have someone in your life to whom you cannot lie, they can speak truth to you. Only then can you begin to transform.
- Someone To Name His/Her Issues. If one thing is true of the most dysfunctional people I know, it is that they fail to “name” their issue. If you’re a bitter person, someone who loves you should say so. If you’re a toxic personality, someone needs to say so, and not just dismiss you as “sometimes difficult.” When your issues are named, you gain perspective and can begin to deal with them. Human beings are self-centered, greedy, bullish, condescending, etc…but we only think of others that way. When someone we know and trust names that in us, as crazy as it sounds, our humanity is freed to seek out the divinity we say we want.
- Someone To Call Him/Her Out. I’ve noticed one consistent trait in everyone I know: They lie. We don’t mean to, we just do. Sometimes we lie because we want to be gracious or to protect the innocent. Other times we lie because we fear the consequences of telling the truth. Yet, other times we lie to protect our hearts from the truth. This, I think, is the most dangerous type of lying. And because we’re so good at it, we need someone outside ourselves to highlight (gently) our inconsistencies. This is how we come to know the truth about ourselves.
- Someone Who Will Go To God With and For Us. Walking with God can be difficult. It helps to have someone who knows Him a little better, differently, or more deeply than you do walking alongside you. You already know that your relationship with God is less than you hope others believe it is. It helps to have another person going to God with you to exercise some of your spiritual muscles.
My advice to you is simple: Get a spiritual director. Talk with the most spiritually formed person in your faith community and ask them what they do for faith development. Read Majorie Thompson’s Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life and prepare for your life to change.