What is Spiritual Direction?
Updated: Jul 23
What exactly is spiritual direction? How is it different from therapy? What happens in a session?
I have tried to respond to questions like these for the last several years in many different ways. However, I was inspired by the image below* and found it to be helpful in articulating what the vision is behind spiritual direction. Take a read!
Top of Life’s Waters
I would say that much of our life is spent snorkeling or swimming at the top of life’s waters doing very necessary life responsibilities. However, we are often unaware of the tip of an iceberg that is next to us.
It is typically in this space where life is managed around questions like:
- How do I look and feel good?
- Am I doing the right things?
- Am I going to church, praying before meals, opening the door for strangers, paying my taxes?
Just Below the Water
However, something might happen that pushes us down under the water where our hurts and hangups are. When that happens, we use up a lot of energy doing whatever it takes to cope or narcotize the pain in order to get back up into the managed life space.
When this happens we might ask ourselves:
- What can I do to get back to feeling and looking good?
The Deeper Waters
But the birthplace for our wholeness and transformation is to go deeper against the density of the water and spend time in the forming layer and asking questions such as:
- God, what are you forming in me through this?
- God, what are you doing through this and in me?
The focus of this layer is cooperating with the Holy Spirit in the movement of God forming us through life’s circumstances. It is in these waters where we receive the love, truth, rest and presence that we are looking for.
However, spending time in the formed layer requires us to shift from our mind to our heart. And it is amazing how resistant and reluctant we can be to doing this.
So this is where spiritual direction comes in. Spiritual directors are like scuba diving buddies who come alongside those who want to go a little deeper with themselves and God. Although the terrain may be uncertain and vulnerable the possibilities are endless!
*Image adapted from unnamed spiritual director, referred to by John Mark Comer, in lecture called “How to Navigate Emotional Pain” given at Park Hill Church.