Conversations 5.1: Spiritual Direction
Volume 5:1 Spring 2007
What is spiritual direction? How does it differ from counseling? Is it a type of discipleship offered by the church? Since this issue of Conversations was published fifteen years ago, more resources are available about this ancient form of spiritual friendship. The practice of spiritual direction has gained popularity among the church and among graduate schools offering training programs. Yet, many people still don’t know about, or understand the unique gift that spiritual direction is. As David Benner says in the opening pages of this issue, “Spiritual direction is such an important resource for the journey, we are excited to present an entire issue that brings the topic to center stage.
The articles that follow do this well, providing a variety of perspectives on the multifaceted jewel that spiritual direction represents.” Benner goes on to say,
A good spiritual director is uniquely able, therefore, to help us get in touch with our deepest passions and longings. She or he should also help us understand both the distortions in these passions and the things that block us from expressing them. . . .
Tending our inner fires is not simply for the purpose of self-fulfillment. Christian spirituality calls us to channel these fires in such a way that it moves us with (com)passion into the world. Passion for God should lead to passionate engagement with the world and the others who share it with us.
As in every issue of the journal, it was the aim of the Editors that the contributors represent various streams of the Christian faith. Therefore, whether you are new to this spiritual practice, or perhaps rediscovering these articles from years past, we hope that you’ll find something to encourage you wherever you find yourself along the way.
We have the wonderful gift of Juliet Benner’s meditation on the cover art by He Qi. She invites the reader to experience the Scripture depicted in the art—“a visual reminder that, as travelers on the Way, we are all in need of soul hospitality, which offers safety, generous space, and silence in which to share our journeys.”
Janet Ruffing, a professor and instructor in spirituality and spiritual direction, teaches us a little bit about the history of spiritual direction, and how it can serve as a safe place for spiritual growth and psychological development. Of note, the classroom experience includes a summary and deeper dive into Marie Loewen’s article “A Place Along the Way.” All the writers in this issue remind us of our true identity as God’s beloved, but make sure you take time to read about Kevin Reimer’s spiritual experience with that notion in “Nouwen on the Porch.”
Gary W. Moon noted that the hallmark of Christian spiritual direction is the role of the Holy Spirit in the process:
Regardless of what it is called—spiritual direction, friendship, disciple-making, companionship, journeying with—each of the facets of our investigation reflected striking commonalities. Each pointed to the need for a traveling companion and the Holy Spirit’s being the true director, and each defined the goal as taking on the life and character of Christ through the development of a loving and interactive relationship with the Divine.
As Psalm 119:26–27 point out, it is an active and dynamic relationship between God and the singer, which leads to a healthy dependence on the Spirit for transformation.
Enjoy this issue, and may the Spirit bring about the courage to open yourself to another along the way.
See class here.