A Soul Companion
Updated: Feb 14, 2022
What if there was someone who was a safe person with whom you could process your spiritual journey? An objective person with whom you could share your questions about God and how you notice Christ in your life? Someone that you could laugh with…and maybe cry with? One who would make space for you to be with God as they listen to you? What if this person didn’t try to fix you or give you more information but instead gently led you to listen to the Holy Spirit? A soul companion such as this exists in the form of a trained Christian spiritual director.
Coming alongside others in their spiritual journey is the calling and giftedness of a spiritual director. If you have never heard of spiritual direction, you are not alone. Discipleship, mentoring, counseling, and coaching are familiar terms among followers of Christ. And though spiritual direction is becoming a little more conventional with Protestants, it is still not a ministry or practice that is well-known.
I mentioned spiritual direction in a blog I wrote during Lent in February 2021 – A Confession About Confession. I wrote, “Several years ago, I began seeking ways of pursuing more of Christ in my life. I no longer wanted to be satisfied in a relationship with God that mostly involved reading a daily devotional or Scripture and praying for people or things on my prayer list. Please do not misunderstand me; I still wanted Scripture and intercession in my life with God - it’s just that I longed for so much more. I yearned to know Him more deeply and I was eager to really listen to Him and hear what He wanted to say to me. I wanted to be obedient, not because it’s expected of me as a Christian, but because I so desperately loved Him.” It was about this time that I began to incorporate spiritual disciplines into my life that fostered intentional times for listening to God. One of the spiritual disciplines I felt drawn to include was spiritual direction.
What first inspired me to find a spiritual director was that I noticed God speaking to me about something very specific in my life. What I heard from Him was an unexpected calling that seemed to come completely out of the blue. I thought this would be a good time to begin a relationship with a spiritual director - someone with training and experience in companioning others in their walk with Christ. I had heard the term spiritual director many years ago when my husband took his first sabbatical and told me he met with a spiritual director. But more recently, I had a friend and fellow pastor’s wife who met with a spiritual director, so I reached out to her to see how I could find someone for myself. She gave me some good resources and not long after that I began meeting with Janet, who has been my spiritual director ever since.
What is spiritual direction and what is a spiritual director?
Grafted Life Ministries states, “Spiritual direction is a safe place to explore your questions and concerns about your life with God. A Christian spiritual director is a trained listener who will accompany you as you share about your spiritual journey, helping you to notice God’s presence and activity along the way, as well as your personal reactions and responses. Hospitable, confidential, and grounded in biblical truth, spiritual direction is a ministry that helps you grow in prayer and live into your calling as a follower of Christ.”
How is spiritual direction different from mentoring, discipling, counseling, and other types of spiritual companionship?
Below are a few of the ways each of these are distinct from one another (from Holy Invitations, Jeannette A. Bakke).
- Focus is on pouring into another person for development, usually for specific competencies
- Agenda is set by the mentor
- Role of the mentor is coach
- Focus is on instruction, to teach information about God
- Agenda is set by the person doing the discipling
- Role of discipler is instructor
- Focus is on problem solving, crisis management, healing of past wounds
- Agenda set by the person being counseled
- Counselor serves as a facilitator
- Focus is on the directee paying closer attention to their relationship with God
- Process involves prayerful attention to the Holy Spirit during the session
- Agenda is revealed by the Holy Spirit
- Role of the director is pray-er, listener
David Benner writes in his book Spiritual Companions, “Spiritual directors function like guides more than teachers. They accompanied others on the journey, not as experts but as companions. Having escorted others on similar journeys, they’re sometimes in a position to offer assistance in selecting the best route. Furthermore, because they know the region where you and they are journeying, they may be able to help you put the journey in perspective to see where you are in terms of where you’re going, but the way they best facilitate the learning that’s important to the spiritual journey is by continually orienting themselves and you to the Spirit.”
How do you know if spiritual direction is for you?
Often, the decision to seek spiritual direction is indicative of a movement of God. In other words, any movement on our part toward God indicates a movement of God seeking us. We love because He first loved us, we long for Him because He first longed for us, and we reach for Him because He first reached for us. You may be reading this blog and notice that spiritual direction is something you want to pursue. Or you might be in a season of transition, with a decision to make, and you want someone to walk with you through the discernment process. Spiritual direction is also helpful if you have doubts and questions about God. Spiritual direction is a way to pursue God with all your heart and a way to respond to God who is pursuing you.
As I mentioned earlier, what first drew me to spiritual direction was a sense that God was calling me to something that I wasn’t expecting – to become a spiritual director myself. As I met with my spiritual director, I began a process of discerning this call and eventually entered Selah - Leadership Transformation’s Spiritual Direction Training Program. It is one of the greatest joys of my life to serve as a spiritual director.
If you are interested in learning more about spiritual direction or in finding a spiritual director, below are a few resources you may find helpful. You can also reach out to me with any questions. I’ll be happy to share more!
Holy Invitations, Jeannette A. Bakke
A Soul Companion - Part Two - follow up blog to this one