Holy Listening

I love the story in the Old Testament of Samuel learning to recognize God’s voice. The first two times God calls him, Samuel thinks it’s Eli: the elderly, half-blind priest with whom he lives. It’s only after hearing the voice and thinking it was Eli for a third time that Eli finally realizes it may be God. Eli tells Samuel to pay attention and respond to God if it happens again.

This, in short form, is what spiritual direction is all about. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are always lovingly and personally initiating towards us; present, communicative, and active in the ordinary and everyday. And we are often unaware. We need someone to listen to our experience and help us recognize God in it. Spiritual direction offers this kind of intentional care and help, which is why the church has always valued it throughout the centuries and why people increasingly find it so life-giving.

What is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is an ancient Christian practice – which “most generations of Christians have agreed is essential” (Eugene Peterson) – intended to facilitate deeper personal awareness of God’s presence, voice, and activity in your life.

A “spiritual director” provides a non-anxious, unhurried, and confidential space for a “directee” to share about their experience of and relationship with God. A director doesn’t tell you what to do or try to “solve” things for you. Rather, the director’s main role is offering compassionate listening without agenda or judgment, and asking gentle yet precise questions that help a “directee” pay attention to and respond more fully to God. In other words, a spiritual director helps direct a person’s attention to God as opposed to giving them directions.