For the month of February, we’ve gathered around the Campfire to have a heart-to-heart about Soul Care and how valuable it is. We are wrapping up our focus on Soul Care with a blog from a dear friend of mine, Chris Goral. She is a pastor at the Vineyard NY Church in Syracuse, New York, and a real Soul Care boss, if you ask me. (She’s gonna hate that I said that!)
Phil Strout talked about having people in your life who ask you the hard questions. Chris is going to take some time to talk about a way that we can make that a part of our schedule!
Phil Strout talked to us the other night about soul care. I hope you were able to participate. He had some amazing wisdom for us as we try to care for our souls when we are in the midst of a life of public ministry.
Then he asked, “What is happening in your secret life with God?” That is a really good question. And before I can answer that, find that I have to ask, “How do I really know what is going on the secret places of my life with Jesus? Am I noticing what the Father is doing in the everyday activities I do? How can I tell if I am living a balanced life so that I am not off-balance in an area?” We can all live on the surface without examining the depth. There is an ancient form of pastoral care called Spiritual Direction that can aid us in answering those questions. “…if the purpose of Christian discipleship is to become more like the Christ we seek to follow, so that we may know God and find our home in fellowship with the Trinity, the purpose of spiritual direction may be said to assist us in this goal” (Using the Bible in Spiritual Direction, Liz Hoare pg. xi). In recent years, there has been a resurgence of this practice in the global church, as well as in our Vineyard tribe.
So, just what is Spiritual Direction? For me defining it is a hard thing to do and you can find definitions on line that help more than any I can give. I have been a Spiritual Director for 10 years and I still struggle to describe it! First of all, it isn’t directive. It is sitting with someone trained to ask questions, who listens deeply to you and your life, as well as deeply to God and helps you to connect the dots of what God is doing. It is sitting for an hour asking God to help us dust for his fingerprints in your life. I can remember my director, after knowing me for a few years, making a simple observation. “Chris, have you noticed that whenever things are feeling unsettled in your life you feel like you need to move to a new house?” Even in my self-awareness training of the secret life I hadn't seen that! But once she helped me to notice it, I realized that I was trying to run away from the problems that were uncomfortable inside me. Since then, whenever I reach that place (again and again, mind you) I realize that I need to sit with God and be honest with him (and myself!) and face whatever painful thing that I am trying to run from. When I get to work with others as a spiritual director, I can see that I can be attuned to the Holy Spirit and often see threads and connections or ask questions that can help the other person to discover for themselves what God is doing.
Who are spiritual directors? Directors are people who love well, accept well, and judge not at all. It is a charism--a gift of the Holy Spirit--just like worship leading, serving, hospitality, pastoring, teaching etc. I always look forward to meeting with my director and examining together what God is up to in my life. It is a non-judging, hospitable place of love and acceptance where I can share my life.
How can I find or connect with a spiritual director? You can generally find a director in Catholic Retreat Centers. Sustainable Faith is a Vineyard ministry that trains directors. On their website (www.sustainablefaith.com), you can find some directors listed. They generally charge somewhere between $50 -100 dollars a session, although almost all of them will not let the finances stand in the way. Also, while directors are in training, they do not charge for direction. So calling the schools listed on the Sustainable Faith website and asking if there is someone available may be an option. Many of us use Skype or Facetime for people who are at a distance. If you would like help getting connected with a director, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).