Monday, February 22, 2010

On The Question of Spiritual Direction/Director or Not?

I had been pondering the possibility of engaging a spiritual director lately and decided to inquire of one whom I think of as a “spiritual director”, if only in a “long distance” sense for me personally. I’m not sure what exactly prompted this curiosity in the first place, perhaps the current resurgence of spiritual direction and directors among the church and its adherents in general? So, I decided also to do some research of my own, especially after getting this reply from my “spiritual director”:
“Here is my advice: focus on what you have to give, and keep finding ways to do it. "It is more blessed to give than receive," said our Lord (one of the few sayings of Jesus quoted directly by Paul--suggesting its importance, up there with the Golden Rule).
For you, I believe, spiritual direction would be a step backward into spiritual naval gazing. You are a father in Christ, a spiritual director. You have many children and grandchildren in the Lord--keep speaking into their lives. Not to mention your brothers and sisters. TEACH THEM TO OBEY all Jesus commanded, not just to understand or like it.
For what it is worth,
P.S. Spiritual direction is not a new trend--ancient practice, along with papacy, hierarchical top-down structure (in direct disobedience to Jesus in Matthew 20:20ff, etc). Its track record is well-established as failed fruit. Where is it mentioned in scripture? What about FATHERING? that is mentioned. You are too “old” to need a father--focus on your “sons”!”
From: Pat Watters []
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 12:07 PM
To: Brian Dodd
Subject: spiritual direction/director???
Hey Brian,

Sorry to pester you, but thought you might have some wise advice on spiritual direction (director)? I seem to be doing fine with God's Word and the writings of the ancient fathers and mothers, but lately have been wondering if there is something more I should be doing with regards to "spiritual direction", or even if I should pursue the services of a "spiritual director"? Yes, I realize this has become a "trendy" thing among some Christians in our time, but all the ancients seem to have had spiritual mentors? So, just wondering if you have any thoughts on this subject?
only By Grace,
Well, rather than appeasing my mind on the matter, Brian’s response only served to motivate further inquiry. Hence, a journey into God’s Word for guidance, literature search on the subject including the ancient fathers and mothers of the church, and of course lots of prayer while seeking God’s own “voice” on the matter. The following is a loosely organized personal treatise on the need for spiritual direction aside from God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, in other words, for a personal (human) spiritual director as generally defined by the Roman Catholic church. (BTW, Brian is an Oxford PhD, ordained in both the Methodist and Episcopal churches, currently planting house churches, and being husband and father. So, I feel he has the necessary qualifications for a true “spiritual director”, but he always hesitates to give such direction, instead pointing to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as well as God’s Word.)
Okay, so here begins a collection of Scriptures that speak to spiritual direction, beginning with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth.

All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[b] them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you

I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
That should have been enough to convince me that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word is all I need for spiritual direction, but of course being human I had to look further:
1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (New International Version)
Wisdom From the Spirit
6We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"[a]— 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.[b] 14The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
16"For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?"[c] But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Timothy 4 (New International Version)
1 Timothy 4
Instructions to Timothy
1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
6If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (New International Version)
14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 4
1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
1 John 2:20-27 (New International Version)
20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.[a] 21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
24See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.
26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
Okay, that should certainly be enough for most of us, including me! I don’t doubt the advantage of brethren in Christ for accountability and direction as the Spirit speaks to them on our behalf, but all these Scriptures seem to be encouraging us to depend primarily on Jesus through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. I also understand Brian’s admonishment to “give” rather than “receive”. We too often seem inwardly focused, in our personal lives and in our churches. I understand the need for a contemplative life, but without an active aspect to that life we fail to follow our Lord’s command to “Go.”
Jesus called us to be servants . . . to serve, to give rather than receive, to be the least. In “bottom up”, (not “top down”), hierarchy, we are (in Christ) a royal priesthood. But, this priesthood looks very different than that of the institutional church (e.g. papacy, etc.) throughout history. As “fathers” (and “mothers”) in Christ we are to be mentoring, enabling, and sending out others, (and taking no credit). Spiritual directors (and certainly “soul friends”/ Anam Charra) would never expect remuneration for their services, never “lord it over” those they serve, instead being humble and avoiding spiritual pride, recalling “who” they are in God’s light.
I guess I sense this is ultimately between us and God? We can avail ourselves of “outside” help, even turn to the “great cloud of witnesses”, but it is God through His Spirit that will teach us. His Word is True, and there we must always turn for guidance. Certainly, the ancient fathers and mothers have much to say and teach us as well, but they will also point us back to Holy Scripture.
I do hope this discourse has been helpful to at least a few who may read it. I can say that it has been a good learning experience for me, and I believe I have a firmer grasp on how to proceed in this life of service to our Lord and His Kingdom. May my (and your) life be truly “hidden in Christ”, and may we reflect His Love and Light to a dark and needy world.

Only by Grace,

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