Why Spiritual Direction?
Original photo from Tau Zero.
When I first heard the term “spiritual direction,” I thought, “I don’t need anyone to be directing my spirit other than the Holy Spirit!” That, of course, is true, but I hadn’t grown up with the term or with the chance to understand this ministry. I assumed, like the term seems to imply, spiritual direction meant talking about “spiritual” things to a person who is going to direct me (or, in other words, tell me what I should be doing in light of the “spiritual” things I have shared). Maybe this makes sense for Catholic monks and nuns, I reasoned, but not for me.
That was 20 years ago. Since then, the term has become much more prevalent in Protestant circles, and for the last 15 years, I’ve gotten to watch the evolution first hand as I’ve sat behind a table at the NYWC with a large “Spiritual Direction Sign-Ups” sign.
Now when people stop by our table, I hear things like:
“I don’t have anyone I can talk to about what is really going on.”
“I teach others to make time to nurture their spiritual lives, but I feel guilty that I don’t do it myself.”
Or simply, “I’ve heard this is a good thing—I think I’ll try it out.”
This is progress! And, the opportunity to try out spiritual direction at NYWC is unique. Youth Specialties is the only ministry of its kind to provide spiritual directors free of charge to conference attendees, and thanks to Mark Yaconelli, the son of YS founder Mike Yaconelli, YS has done so long before most people had heard of spiritual direction. Providing spiritual directors is not “cost effective” for YS—it’s part of their commitment to deeply tend to the people they serve. In fact, many organizations now use YS as a model for how spiritual direction as a ministry can bloom in a large convention setting.
As people in ministry, we rarely get a chance to stop and listen to the story of God unfolding in our own hearts and circumstances.
Ministry, be it paid or volunteer, is wrought with difficulties as we try to live out our journeys of faith in the public eye. Where do we turn when we are too tired to pray, too overwhelmed by our responsibilities, or when we’re trapped in sin patterns and addiction? What do we do when we find ourselves in some crisis of faith, no longer believing that God is a good God who will provide for us and protect us or our loved ones in the ways we once believed? If we are committed to live the Christian life, we WILL experience crisis of faith. How can we savor the deep whispers of the Spirit when we have so many things going on?
Spiritual direction provides us space to hit the pause button from time to time and reflect in a way that seeks an awareness of God’s presence and provision in the midst of beautiful (and difficult) times. We have to find ways to stay connected to God and to ourselves—and not the selves we want to present to the world, but the selves that get exhausted and deeply hurt, the selves that get angry and lustful and anxious and, at the very same time, desire to do the right thing and love the ones we’re with. I can think of no more helpful ministry than spiritual direction to provide the kind of connection, reflection and groundedness we need.
All the spiritual directors at YS are trained to NOT solve, fix, and offer answers, but instead to notice, ask questions, and listen with you for how God might be present in your life. The meetings are always confidential, so what are you waiting for? Spending one hour with a spiritual director at NYWC might be the best thing you’ve done for yourself in a very long time, and one way to love the One you’re with.
Beth Slevcove has served as a spiritual director for the past 16 years, primarily working with people in ministry. She served as the director of spiritual formation for Youth Specialties and holds advanced degrees in theology and education. She is an oblate at a Benedictine monastery and runs a surf company based on saving the endangered Tijuana Surf Monkey. Beth can often be found in the ocean, making tent forts with her little ones, or at a local coffee house where she is writing a book on grief for IVP. You can contact her directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.