What is Spiritual Direction?

I first heard the term “spiritual direction” when I attended  a Via de Cristo retreat weekend in 1990.  Spiritual direction was mentioned in a list of disciplines that could be helpful in increasing piety, but we received little information to explain what this discipline entailed, or how to go about doing it.  Being the curious person I am, I went back to my home congregation and asked my Pastor, “what is spiritual direction and are you my spiritual director?”  Turns out he didn’t really know either.  That started me on a journey that led to lots of reading and research, 5+ years of being a spiritual directee, and finally a two year program through Oasis Ministries called, “Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides” during which I had several directees of my own.  After all of this, I still found myself asking, “Exactly what is this thing called spiritual direction?”

Most Lutherans, like me, are unfamiliar with the idea of spiritual direction.  The closest concept in our tradition is probably “seelsorge,” or care of souls, which is regarded as part of the pastoral office.

Like other Christians, however, we Lutherans do want to explore and deepen our faith lives and we know that certain relationships with others help us do that. Even those who have not heard of “spiritual direction” are comfortable with the idea of having a spiritual friend or mentor.  Luther himself spoke of “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together,  says:

“God has willed that we should seek and find His living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man.  Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself …”

Simply put, spiritual direction is pointing another person toward God.  I believe the ability to do this is a charism, or spiritual gift and it often occurs naturally in the Christian community, sometimes without the individuals involved being fully aware of it.

Stay tuned for my next post about my own experiences in spiritual direction …..

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