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Discovering Spiritual Direction

“No, I can’t see you then!” remarked my Anglican colleague, “I’m seeing my spiritual director”.

“What’s more important than a planning meeting?” I mused to myself.

Working in the UK and attending an Anglican parish often raised puzzling, counter-cultural values and occasions. It sounded so arcane with connotations of esoteric discussions and shadowy authority. It was only much later in Australia that I realized the “spiritual” was about agenda and the “direction” about travellers on the same journey.

There are a number of variants to the term spiritual direction, for example, companioning, anna cara or guide. The super-modern coach or mentor also carries elements of the meaning of the older term. But none of these descriptors quite catch the experience of the moment. The inter-relationship of the gentle question, “what do you bring ..?” of attentive inner listening, of reflection, of insight or struggle, of rebirth in the ways of the Spirit.

Jesus models spiritual direction. “What do you want?” “What are you seeking?” he asks the curious disciples in John’s Gospel. It is the classic direction question. Their uncertain answer evoked a further invitational question, “Come and see”. Jesus models attentive listening, exploration and invitation, so that the companioned can listen more attentively to God’s presence in the created order, society and their own inner truth.

Some companions are naturally gifted. Their habitual attentive, insightful listening and discernment are augmented by their personal holiness. We are blessed by the persistence of this long tradition of “father give me a word”. In contemporary times most test their personal vocation by long training and supervision, the practice of inner disciplines and the development of spiritual discernment. Such is one of the works of Dayspring.

“Always it is God to whom we are paying attention …. never God-in-himself …. it is God-in-relationship with me, his people, with this person.” (Eugene Peterson)

– Brian Stitt

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