Last semester, I read a great book as an assignment for my class at the Charlotte Spirituality Center called "The Practice of Spiritual Direction" by William A. Barry and William J. Connolly. The book taught the reader how to become a Spiritual Director. There was advice, practice situations, verbatim's to study, and so on. The result was simple: Anyone can study how to become a Spiritual Director and anyone can learn the skills required for Spiritual Direction. That being said, there was a distinction present at the end of the book that caught my attention.
This chapter contained a list of all the attributes of a good Spiritual Director. Things like, "A Spiritual Director must experience God communicating with them in all their realities" or "Spiritual Directors need a contemplative attitude through their own prayer life" or "Spiritual Directors must be discovered by a Christian Community", and so on. But after that list was written there was an explanation.
Spiritual direction is a lifelong process. It requires a real love for people and for God and courage to encounter the darkness of those real people in their real lives. Anyone can learn the skills of Spiritual Direction and embody the values that it takes to become a director, but it takes something more...Directors who hope to foster a relationship between real people and God have to have "a surplus of warmth."
I was amazed to read this. The whole book was dedicated to study of Spiritual Direction and then suddenly it pointed out that you can learn everything you need to know about Spiritual Direction, but that doesn't mean that you will be good at it. It takes something more.
This "surplus of warmth" was describing an authentic way of life and a belief system that is to be truly lived into in one's day to day living. It is a true interest in people and a commitment to this sacred time together. It is the spontaneity needed to allow the Spirit to lead and the willingness to practice being in-tune with that Spirit day in and day out. To be a Spiritual Director means that this has to be an authentic way of life that you keep in your heart and live into. It fills you with a passion that overflows as warmth and light into the world and the lives around you.
This means that a lot of people who study Spiritual Direction will not become good Spiritual Directors. This paragraph indicates that this is a calling (whether you like that word or not). It is not just a study to be learned and recreated over and over again, it is a way of life that is true to the person living it. It was probably true to that person before they even set foot into the program. You cannot teach someone how to have "a surplus of warmth". That is a gift from God.
It made me proud that I am part of a school that can teach all that is necessary for learning this "skill", while knowing that there will be prayerful, watchful discernment taking place from my advisers and leaders who will tell me honestly whether I should truly live into this role. The entire system is set up to allow the Spirit to reveal where this "surplus of warmth" abides so that the people who have been given the spiritual gift of direction will be affirmed and guided in how to use it well.
I wish this intentionality was applied in all areas of our lives.
God is revealing himself through the ancient metaphors of scripture in the modern context of our time. People are having dreams and seeing visions, but many don't know how to interpret them or how to read them because we are not being taught the language of the Spirit. We are still not learning how to discern the nature of God. There seems to be a complacency among the people and our leaders to simple know the "right" information and live into or break out of the "correct" systems to promote growth and progress within the church. However, we are missing the most integral part of this whole experience- Relationship.
There is a hunger among the people. I have heard the bellies grumble and I have heard it reverberating from my own core; our Spirits are kicking inside these wombs but we aren't sure where to find bread. Our system tells us that, rightly, we should go to the most learned on the subject, but I have another idea...
Let's seek out leaders who know something of the nature of God. Leaders who live daily into the practices and authentic pilgrimages of calling out in the name of Jesus. Leaders who know something of the language of God and can read the signs of his revelations, truly guiding by the way of the Spirit.
There is a big difference between studying God and having a relationship with God. Just like there is a two part definition for the word "know".
- To be aware through observation, inquiry, and information
- To develop a relationship with through meeting and spending time with; being friendly with
We have a lot of leaders who are very familiar with the information we have about God. However, we are in a period in the church where I think it is critical that we choose leaders who know God through a personal relationship with the Spirit he has revealed to them. Leaders who spend time with God and are familiar with the Spirit of the Lord living and moving in their own lives. Leaders with a "surplus of warmth", if you will.
The combination of these two ways of knowing will change the church as we know it. Just remember that it only took 12 men living in a daily relationship of knowing Jesus to change the history of the world...