What Is Spiritual Direction? And Why Should I Try It?

Spiritual direction is recognizing God’s amazing work in us and among us in the ordinariness of human existence. – Margaret Guenther
man holding compass on trail

Men of all ages come to me for spiritual direction, and they come for all sorts of reasons. Here are two of the more common ones, stated in words similar to what I have heard:

“There has to be more to God than what I am experiencing. What am I missing?”

“I think I know a lot about God, but I don’t feel much of His presence or love. Is there something wrong with me?”

When I first heard of spiritual direction, I had both reasons rolling around inside of me. Yet I was skeptical of it, and then somewhat resistant. It felt unknown, scary, and frankly a little weird. If you feel this way, trust me, I get it. Here’s the real irony. Twelve years after I first heard of it, I am a full-time spiritual director who has sat in on hundreds and hundreds of sessions with other men. And I’m always surprised at what happens! I have a front row seat to God’s amazing work in a man’s life.

But I think it’s best to hear it from someone else. Listen in…

What happens in spiritual direction?

Let’s start here. It’s pretty simple. After of few minutes of small talk, I open in a brief prayer, and we sit in silence together. A man can stay there for as short or as long as he chooses. At first, sitting in silence feels a little awkward, but most men come to love that time to decompress, breathe, and be still.

Then the conversation starts. What do we talk about? Sometimes a man comes with a question or a life experience they want to discuss. Sometimes something comes up in the silence that feels important. And sometimes there seems to be no clear starting point. That’s fine as well. I will sometimes start with a question to get things going.

Toward the end of our time, I will usually ask a man to talk silently to Jesus about all that we have talked about. And then I will close in a brief prayer. That’s it. Really, that’s all it is.

So how can something so simple be so powerful? The secret sauce is certainly not me or even our conversation. It’s the presence and work of God, opening prison doors, freeing locked hearts, granting joy and hope. I’ve watched it happen hundreds of times. It’s always a rush to see God at work when we pause and take time in the silence!

What spiritual direction is not

So let me do a little distinguishing. Spiritual direction is not therapy. It’s not advising. It’s not mentoring. It’s not teaching. It’s not discipling. It’s not life coaching. Nothing wrong with any of these. They can all be super helpful.

Spiritual direction is something different. It’s dusting for God’s fingerprints in a man’s life. It’s helping him discern how God is already at work in him so that he can respond better to His initiative.

And to allay anyone’s fears here, you will never be asked to go to a place you don’t want to go. There is nothing forced here. In like manner, God’s work is never forced on us. We have to choose freely because we desire it. Spiritual direction just helps the process along.

A little of my story

I came into spiritual direction with tons of head knowledge about God, about Jesus, about theology. And yet my heart felt like a cold tomb. I was riddled with shame, fear, and anxiety. I knew so much and experienced so little of what Jesus seemed to be offering me. This only added to the shame and the sense that something was wrong with me.

I started seeing a spiritual director almost nine years ago, and I still see one today. What has happened in that time is truly a miracle. This is no hyperbole. My own daily experience of God’s presence has profoundly reshaped my inner life. And His personal love for me has transformed literally everything. I shudder to think where I would be if I hadn’t discovered spiritual direction.

The two great truths

Spiritual direction is founded on two very simple truths that undergird the entire story of the Bible. They are so simple, a child can understand them. Here they are…

God is always present.

God is always working.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you. These truths change the trajectory of any man’s life. When he starts to experience God’s presence, he feels the connection for which he was created. He is never alone. He will never be abandoned. He is forever safe and forever loved. And when a man becomes aware of God’s ongoing work in his life, he doesn’t have to figure everything out on his own. Fear and anxiety take a back seat. Life becomes an adventure with a trusted companion.

What’s the next step?

Again, this is pretty simple. Schedule a call with me. Or you can do it with the two men who have joined me in this work, Richard and Jon Micah. You can read more about us here. And you can schedule a call here. You can use email or the online calendar we each have. Ask us anything you want when you call. If you would like to proceed, then take spiritual direction out for a test drive. The first one is on the house. And there is no obligation to continue.

We all hunger to experience more of God. Spiritual direction is certainly not the only way, but it is a time-tested way into more of God. I invite you into the adventure.

Bill

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