Drawing Closer to God

How a spiritual director can help you grow in your faith.

Her palms open heavenward, Helene sets them on the couch by her thighs and then starts with a prayer. On occasion, she rings a brass bell to separate the clamor from the quiet. Sometimes she lights a candle, as if to remind us that the Holy Spirit is with us, interceding on our behalf with words we don't even know how to find.

For the next two or three hours, Helene listens intently with me for God's voice. I pay her $30 for this priceless gift. We sit in her sunroom, chatting about my everydayness: the job, the migraines, the mother, the husband, the sex, the prayer life, the joys, the mistakes. Sometimes we read Scripture; in it we find people with the same concerns as mine. In it all, I slowly notice God beckoning.

Helene isn't a mystic or a saint. The title I use for her—spiritual director—isn't helpful, either. As any decent spiritual director is quick to say, the term's a misnomer. Helene doesn't tell me what to do or try to answer questions only God can answer. In her sunroom, we listen for—and sometimes hear—the Holy Ghost.

Once, as I and my biological clock neared 28, I came to her distraught over my feelings of inadequacy as mother material. "Have you talked to God about it?" Helene asked. "Not yet," I replied. "Why don't we ask him now what he thinks," she proposed. She prayed for guidance, and we sat in silence for about five minutes.

There was nothing I wanted more than to hear God's words of comfort. But as the minutes flew by, I felt—pardon the expression—spiritually constipated, unable to discern God's voice. I finally gave up trying. As soon as I did, a thought popped into my head: You can't make this happen! I suddenly realized that just as I couldn't make God answer my questions immediately, I couldn't resolve my feelings toward motherhood when I wanted to. Both require waiting—but would be resolved in time. When I conveyed this to Helene, she said, "See, there's your answer."

Like a growing number of evangelicals, I've turned to spiritual direction because I want to know God better. My life is so hurried and unexamined these days, I need someone older and wiser to accompany me.

David G. Benner, coeditor with Gary Moon of Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls: A Guide to Christian Approaches and Practices, sees the current interest in spiritual direction partly as fad and partly as the result of "a breath of God's Spirit." While the spike in evangelical curiosity may be temporary, spiritual direction is no novelty. It's a classic spiritual discipline various Christian traditions have practiced for centuries.

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