“I wish someone would just hear me!”, “I wish I had someone who could listen to me and help think through this!”, “Is God hearing me?”
Being a spiritual director is not some magical guru who has all the answers and knows the future. But we are trained at hearing and listening with a discerning ear. Disciplined at listening to fellow journeyman and to the Spirit of God. Providing tools and practices to help one navigate through the story of their life in God.
Having something you want to say? I’m listening…
Standing near a group of very eclectic people today I thought more of how they were different than what they had in common. Being made in God’s image, having a spirit in them that has been passed down for thousands of years, having a mind, will, and heart. It didn’t occur to me to ask one of them, ‘how is your soul’? Nor was I aware of the nature of my own soul.
Do we have enough of a vernacular to answer such a question? Have we spent time considering the cost of such a question? What darkness covers the apparent truth? So, how is my soul? What are my electrical synapses firing upon? Where is my will driving me? Is my heart lying to me again?
“How are things in your soul today?”
This morning I had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) on my knee. The technician explained that it creates a picture of my tissue around my knee and can detect any defects, injury, gremlins, etc. It was not painful; I just laid there and focused on not moving for 30 minutes. I am looking forward to the results to hopefully move towards an answer to my pain and hopefully we can find a remedy.
The letter of Hebrews says the Living Word of God knows down to our tissue and all those things that connect us together so beautifully. But the Word also knows us and can make His way into the spirit and soul. I personally am I trichotomist (body, soul, and spirit) but I really can’t show you or prove it to you; it is just a theological view I hold. But, to believe that there is a God who knows my inner spiritual life and the true concoction of my soul and can penetrate it, well, is fascinating to me. I need it to be true. I need a God who can do a spiritual resonance imaging and figure things out or at least can get in there and straighten things out.
I am looking forward to the results of the Great Physician to move towards an answer to my pain and help find a remedy.
In lieu of any good comedies, my wife and I have been watching old Frazier episodes. The irony of the character is that on his radio show he says, “Hello Seattle, I’m listening”, but he actually doesn’t listen well at all and is usually fairly self-absorbed. And of course, that is what makes the show funny, Frazier’s attempt for recognition, acknowledgement, and affirmation.
The art of listening is a discipline we start developing or ignoring from preschool on through adulthood. You may think of a previous or current relationship or boss who never listened, who ignored you and your attempts and engaging in conversation. Or, do I dare say, you may have a difficulty putting aside your own agenda and giving artful, deliberate attention to another created soul.
Do you remember your sophomore health teacher who reminded us, ‘in order to have a friend, you must first be a friend’?
Listening, true listening is an art. It is purposeful, intentional, sacrificial, and satisfying.
The gentleman sat looking at me with what looked like a giant question mark on his face. It was one of the sessions where he and I were connecting the dots. This happened, that happened, I did, they did, I went, and now here I am. He asks, ‘so because of this and that, that is why I am here and feel this way?’ “I didn’t realize all this was connected with one another, I didn’t see it!”
Friendship, counseling, or spiritual mentoring is helpful for us to see those thoughts, ideas, and perceptions that we may not be able to see because, well, many reasons…denial, busyness, preoccupation, pain, or self absorption. The process of self awareness and growth is helped greatly by the submission of our life story to the hearing of trusted companions.
A great question that may be helpful which I learned this weekend is, “In what areas am I blind to the truth of my life situations?”.
I believe that question is best asked by fellow sojourners to one another. Consider who you could have coffee with and ask that question, that your journey may be lit in a new and wondrous light. That you may say, I was blind but now I see.
When the movie “Crash” came out in 2005, it generated a lot of conversation. It won best picture and cost around 6 million and made around 58 million. But it’s worth was seen more in the dialogue about race relations and the emotional tension created by the writer and director.
Unless you are a hermit, your life is filled with many crashes, emotional and frustrating episodes.
It represents to us many times about what we want things to be and then painfully reminded that things are not what we desired. Our pain is many times equal to the value we place on what our expectations were.
Internally, for those who walk in Christ, we face those crashes when the ‘old man’ comes in conflict with the ‘new man’. Another Crash is when our nature and will come into conflict with the Father. The old testament prophets are filled with those crashes. Jer. 4:20 “Crash follows hard on crash” God’s lament over His peoples continued disobedience.
Crashes require reconciliation. Daily reconciliation and adjustments to align one’s self with the character of Christ. Spiritual conversations with family, friends, community, counselor, or spiritual director help us to grow and maintain in our walk.
You can cut the spiritual, uh, theological, uh, philosophical tension with a knife. I found myself sitting in a meeting where the issue of present day physically manifested spiritual gifts came up in the conversation and it was in direct contradiction to another group of interested parties.
I love ‘whodunits’! I loved Encyclopedia Brown as a child. I almost didn’t want to know the answer to the mystery because of the tension and anticipation that came with the end of the story.
I do not want to enter the murky waters or tumultuous winds of the current debate and status of the third person of the Trinity. But to give you a hint of where I sit, I believe one of the sticky wickets of spiritual direction is the question of ‘whodunit’. Is it psychological analysis, emotional response, educated guesses or the act of an engaging God speaking to His children? Well, the answer over the years has been e) all the above.
I believe the act of direction is the desire to be mature and maturing. Direction is an act of discernment and a drawing upon spiritual capitol. It is the written and Living Word of God, and an ear for the Heavenly.
e) all the above
The New Year brings many new workout ideas and self promises. Exchanging one way of life for another. Each carry a burden- a burden of a current life and the disappointments we have with our present state of being. There is the burden of change, the constant re-affirming of the will that certain changes will bring about a significant change, a certain amount of personal affirmation.
In Spiritual direction, there enters a tension, the weight one has of their current life: expectations, desires, burdens, and loves. Spiritual direction encourages us to exchange that weight. Exchange the Glory of one self and to focus on the weight or Glory of God.
That is one significant difference between counseling and spiritual direction, the weight is under different consideration. Counseling considers the weight one bears and how to lighten our burdens or change them to something else more palatable. But in spiritual direction, we exchange the weight, the focus of our glory and change it to the focus on the weight, Glory, honor of God. To view ourselves compared to His Glory. Exchange our glory for His.
Spiritual directors help us to work through and navigate the exchange.
“Did you notice the strength of the wall on the North side of the dam?” said the beaver. “Yes dear, very nice, did you notice the perfect underwater entrance and the angle into our home?” said Mrs. Beaver. “Oh yes, Bea, very nice indeed!”, did you notice……
Engaging in spiritual friendships, pastoral care, or spiritual direction can be very helpful in allowing others to see our ‘loves’, like the beavers, who love the work of their hands (paws). These loves can be dams toward our growth and development into the way of Christ. Often these dams are the work of our own hands as well.
Spending time in reflection and spiritual conversation can help us to navigate over or around these obstacles to our growing faith.
Soulgardener is one tributary to help one grow in their walk with Christ. Spiritual direction, listening, guidance, and mentoring are offered to help one to give attention to their spiritual life.
For 3 years my green peppers didn’t do well. They would grow but would not produce fruit. I like green peppers. It was frustrating year after year watching them grow but not produce fruit. This past year i added different soil and added soil from my compost. This year we had great green peppers. Something was wrong with my soil. Walking with Christ, sometimes we are growing but not producing fruit or someone may trample a seed before it gets going (another story). In spiritual direction, we have the opportunity to ask the questions about why we are not growing or changing. Sometimes we have to test the soil or check out the water, in spiritual direction we ask questions concerning our study of the Word, what questions are we asking the Spirit to help us understand? What is the nature and status of our relationships? Where are being challenged to live in obedience? What are those tensions between our spiritual lives and life of the world? How have we been deceived by wealth? What are the thorns in our life?