The Value of Having a Spiritual Director

The legendary Henri Nouwen once wrote that there are 3 things necessary for closeness to God;
1. Contemplative reading of scripture.
2. Prayer.
3. A spiritual guide
(I think I’d add a 4th to his list and say a like-minded community is crucial as well but far be it from me to disagree with Nouwen☺)
I’ve been meeting with a spiritual director/guide for about a year now. I’ve really grown to love and trust her over the time we’ve spent together. She’s been ‘down the road’ a bit, is from and has lived much of her life in a rural part of the Philippines (a country Erinn and I were fortunate enough to visit in the early days of our marriage), is wise, kind, a careful listener, understands the many faces of poverty, has chosen a life of celibacy as part of her religious order, and is willing to be vulnerable so as to demonstrate that she knows she hasn’t ‘arrived’.

She’s human.

I like every single one of those things about her and I am thankful to have the privilege of befriending her.
My spiritual guide is without a doubt helping me draw closer to God, mainly by listening to my heart and pointing out some things that I hadn’t considered. She seems to have spiritual x-ray vision and has the ability to look into my soul. It’s kind of intimidating when you think about it.
One thing I’ve shared with her along the way is my desire to have deeper intimacy with God. I want to feel God’s presence and not just think about God. I want a more disciplined prayer life. She has reminded me of all the things that I already do that are not simply academic in nature but also bring out strong emotions and feelings in me. These things, these emotional moments, do in fact bring me closer to God.
Blogging is one of those things. When I write, it is a time of prayer and communion with God for me. It is sacred space and time set aside for listening to and wrestling with God. To put my written words ‘out there’ for anyone who wants to read them, is also a vital piece of the process for me. When I was doing more music, I wanted and needed others to hear and interact with it in order for the process to be complete for me. It always helped if people liked it but wasn’t a deal-breaker if they didn’t.
The same is true for my writing. Posting a blog is part of the cathartic nature of the practice of writing for me.

It brings me joy. It brings me fulfillment. It brings me hope.

I am an emotional guy. I’m very passionate about certain things. I can feel joy and happiness when listening to or playing a good piece of music. I often feel deep sadness and grief when thinking about my or someone else’s health issues. I experience gratitude when I spend time with my family and friends. I can get angry when I hear about something that is profoundly unjust.
My spiritual director needed to remind me that the God I worship knows and feels these emotions along with me. When I feel joy, pain, anger (she reminded me recently when I was ranting on my previous blog entry that ‘righteous anger’ is rooted in God’s heart of compassion), sorrow or whatever, God understands those things too. I am in fact becoming more intimate with the Creator of all emotions when I experience them for myself.

And that reminder from this very wise woman brings me great comfort.

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