When you come for spiritual direction, you can expect to find two chairs facing each other.
One of those chairs is set for you and the other is for me. Some spiritual directors set up a third chair to remind us both that God is a conversation partner in all of our listening. I must admit that I often forget to set up this chair. It does not, however, remove the presence of the holy.
Between those two chairs, you’ll find a candle waiting to be lit. After we share a few pleasantries, we will light the candle to remember that God is with us. Susan S. Phillips writes about that candle, saying, “The flickering light encourages me. When confidence falters, it flames on. It testifies to a God who asks us to communicate and trust, to know and be known by the One always present and seeking connection. The candle symbolizes God’s presence for those who bear their hearts to it. There is light and warmth, clarity and mystery, in the play of glow and shadow.” I rather like that.
The candle will flickering until our conversation concludes at the end of the hour. Once it is lit, I’ll ask how you’d like to begin. We could begin with words of prayer that I offer or that you offer. Or you might choose to sit in silence.
There may well be a lot to silence in our conversation during that hour. We won’t force it but when it comes, we’ll welcome it. We’ll try to enter into those holy pauses and listen for what God might be saying. Sometimes we’ll hear something and sometimes we won’t. Either way, we will share in the practice of paying attention to those holy threads reaching toward us.
Spiritual direction is not like a friendship or even a therapy session so the conversation will feel different than it might with others. We’ll be listening together rather than swapping stories. We’ll be searching together for what God is doing in your life and so there won’t be as much back and forth. The conversation will be focused on the heart and soul of your story. This will be weird at times, but we will try to talk about that too. Throughout the conversation, no matter what you might bring, I will to be listening both to you and to God.
Just before our time is over, I’ll hint that it’s almost time. We’ll cherish what we have heard and note those things that seem important. Just as we began, I’ll ask if you’d prefer words of prayer or silence after which we’ll blow out the candle and be grateful for each other and all that has been shared.