Yesterday I had my first appointment for spiritual direction. I’m something of a novice to this ancient practice. And, as an evangelical, came to it with some degree of suspicion. This was lessened after a conversation with a local PCA pastor who (echoing what I’ve heard from a number of ministers over the years) told me that having a spiritual director and a therapist aren’t optional for effective, long-term pastoral work.
As I entered my sabbatical last month, I stumbled on about spiritual direction: Roger Owens, Abba, give me a word: the path of spiritual direction (Paraclete Press, 2012). I don’t know Roger, but some of you may since he’s a graduate of Duke University (M.Div., Ph.D.) and co-pastors a United Methodist Church in Durham.
It’s a great introduction to spiritual direction in the form of a first person retelling of how Roger came to the point of seeking out a director and entering into the path of direction.
A quote from the book captures nicely at least one of the reasons that I have decided that this sort of intentional relationship is critical for me right now–for too long I’ve had the tendency to be a lone-ranger Christian. Sure, I can tell you the right answers about the church and the need for Christian community, but there are precious few people in my life with whom I get to talk about my life with God. It’s easy for pastors to embody the culture’s notion of the sovereign and autonomous self.
“If you’ve decided to enter into spiritual direction, this lesson in letting go [in order to receive direction] has already begun. You are letting go of our culture’s story of the self that says we are fundamentally self-determinative individuals. We have the right to, ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ and we should grasp those rights and teach them to our children, and elect politicians [ahem] who will protect them, and clear away every obstacle that might stand in our way, even if that obstacle is God.”
“When you enter into spiritual direction you are saying, in essence, I’m going to let someone else in. I’m going to loosen my grip on self-determination because I desire to live a God-determined life. You might not even know what it means to live a God-determined life when you start….But you can name the desire nonetheless.”
In the end, above all else, I wish to live a God-determined life.