What is spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is a time-honored spiritual practice in many religions. In Christianity, spiritual direction assists one in building a closer relationship with God or paying more attention to the presence of God in one’s daily life. Spiritual directors are people who are specially trained in the art of spiritual listening in order to serve those who come to them for one-on-one conversation.
In our culture, the term “spiritual direction” can be misleading. Spiritual directors do not tell others what to do or “direct” their lives, but rather provide a safe, confidential space in which to explore spiritual issues (examples below).The real director in spiritual direction is the Holy Spirit. Because of this, many people today prefer the terms “spiritual companioning,” “soul friendship,” or “spiritual mentoring.”
Here is one definition of spiritual direction, from the website of Spiritual Directors International:
Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on a spiritual journey. Spiritual direction exists in a context that emphasizes growing closer to God (or the sacred, the holy or a higher power).
Why might someone want to visit a spiritual director or “soul friend”? Here are some common reasons people give:
- I’m facing an important decision/transiton and wonder what God wants
- I hunger for a deeper personal relationship with God
- I was hurt by a religious institution and am struggling to find the love of God
- I am studying theology and don’t want it to just be a “head trip”
- My prayer life feels boring/dry/dead/confusing/needs enrichment
- I want to become more aware of God’s presence in my daily life (integrating my spiritual side with family life, work, service, etc.)
Spiritual directors may charge a fee because they do not receive wages from any institution for this service. The fee is not payment for advice or prayer, but rather to help compensate them for their time. Many offer a sliding scale or make exceptions for those who cannot afford spiritual direction. They do not want people to stay away due to inability to pay.
Spiritual Direction with Julie McCarty
Julie McCarty is a spiritual director who lives in Eagan, Minnesota and attends Easter Lutheran Church (ELCA). She has formal training from the Hesychia* School of Spiritual Direction in Tucson, Arizona, as well as other training in religious education, theology, and spirituality. Her spiritual direction training included various ways to pray, discernment process (decision-making with the Spirit’s help), methods of interfaith spiritual direction, and ministering to those who feel alienated from the church community due to sexual orientation.
Julie’s own spirituality is deeply grounded in mainline Christianity. She grew up in a family whose ancestors were Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Ukrainian Catholic, and Polish Catholic. In her free time, she enjoys learning about other religious traditions.
Because of this, Julie is open to serving not only active Christians, but also people of other religious traditions, those who feel alienated or hurt by religious institutions, and those unaffiliated with any faith community. Her own experience of “dark days” (miscarriage/infertility, leaving the church of her youth, job disappointments, and death of a parent) gives her compassion for those going through difficult transitions. Julie has deep respect for however the Divine One (God) is already working in each one’s life and views spiritual direction as a ministry of service.
Practical details: During the first meeting, the two people get acquainted and attempt to discern if the Holy Spirit might be leading them to work together. If both agree, they begin to meet about once a month for approximately one hour. Some people see spiritual direction as an ongoing process, others may experience spiritual direction for a period of 6-8 months while going through an important transition, others might experience spiritual direction a single time while on retreat.
Julie meets with spiritual seekers at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minnesota.
Questions? Want to give it a try? Send Julie an e-mail with “Spiritual Direction” in the subject line or leave a phone message (see contact page).
Dig deeper! Learn more about spiritual direction:
* ”Hesychia” is a Greek word from Eastern Christianity that means prayerful, inner stillness.