Some thoughts on choosing a spiritual director

A reflection by Lindsey

I’ve never been a person who intrinsically knows how I want particular important relationships to play out. I have a gut sense of what I find helpful and what sort of things tend to scare me a bit. Recently, I’ve spent some time wondering if there are any patterns to what I find helpful and scary when looking for a new spiritual director. This reflection should be read as exclusively descriptive of my own experience and not remotely prescriptive of others’ experiences.

So much of spiritual direction involves finding various kinds of balance. God is with us, and God has immeasurable power. The commandments are given to us for our benefit, and to say God’s grace is “infinite” is to rob grace of some of its depth. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, cherishing the specific people God has placed in our paths, all while cultivating a sense of our global place as stewards of creation. In my own limitations as a human, certain truths are harder to remember than others.

I look for spiritual directors who help restore my sense of balance. I’ve learned that I tend to focus on what I can do actively to grow spiritually, oftentimes cultivating busyness rather than sabbath refreshment. I can get hung up on trying to discern the nature of God’s commands as opposed to deepening my appreciation of God’s grace. I like problem solving and can overstate my own capabilities rather than cultivating a childlike faith. I’m grateful to develop a good sense of how I “lean” spiritually, and I’m fully aware that some people lean in the exactly opposite kinds of ways.

When it comes to looking for a spiritual director, I’ve found it helpful to seek out spiritual directors who ooze grace, joy, peace, and a sense of belonging. I honestly hope that these gifts will be contagious. For too long, I’ve experienced my place in the church as being perched precariously between needing to do all of the right things in exactly the right ways and needing to discuss my spiritual journey in exactly the right way. I’ve needed people who can help me see that it’s okay to move away from the “prim and proper” and relish in being a child of God and of the Church.

If there’s one message I’ve needed to hear delivered authentically from a spiritual director in my Christian tradition, it has been, “You are welcome here.” That, full stop, is important. You are welcome here, period. I’ve been in so many congregations where I’ve felt like a liability from the moment I set foot in the door. I’ve received so much direction about how to avoid any lustful thoughts or conduct myself in a way that safeguards the community against scandal that I’ve all but forgotten how it feels to be loved. I never expected to hear a word of complete welcome from any spiritual director within my Christian tradition; when the sentence flowed out of a pastor’s mouth 18 months ago, it left an indelible impression.

I love pastors who constantly spout various wonders of the resurrection. I have to wonder if they’ve faced their own demons and encountered a victorious Christ. I want to know where their hope comes from. It’s something to wonder if they see God’s glory everywhere they look, including when they look directly at me.

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