“Can I get a little less baby crying in my monitor?”
That’s my first thought almost every morning at Cox Hollow (my affectionate nick-name for our multi-family dwelling place just north of Nashville, TN). I’m awakened by the receiving end of our baby monitor pumping out the dulcet tones of our 1-year-old crying out for Dad (or Mom if I’m lucky) to come and rescue him from the confines of his crib. My amazing and lovely wife Susan and I then play a fun little game called “No, you forgot, I got him yesterday.” The winner gets to burrow back into their pillow for another glorious 2.5 minutes of sleep- the loser’s chance at victory postponed until tomorrow. From that moment on, our morning is filled with prepping the kids and ourselves for the day- lunches, diapers (thankfully, only for the babies at this point), bags, keys, phones, laptops, extra clothes for me if I’m going to paint after my normal day’s work is over, or for Susan if she has a community outreach event, and so on. My point is- we’re busy. Like most folks in our world these days our schedules quickly fill up and stay full. And while we’re often re-evaluating ways to slow down, I know we’re not alone.
I want to be present. Present with my family and my friends, with those who come to me for direction, with myself, and especially with God. Presence of mind and body become increasingly difficult when we stay on the move. More and more I’m finding that if adequate time isn’t taken to slow down, to breathe, to contemplate, to pray, or to simply ‘be’, we risk slipping into a kind of auto-pilot. Going through the motions without much thought; leaving us vulnerable to being swept away in the rapids, carried to wherever they decide to take us…and some of these rapids are delivering a death-blow to our lives and faith.
I realize this may sound a bit dramatic, but think about it- what outlet do many of us have to actually process what’s going on in our life and faith? Where can we go where someone is simply there…to listen? We all have questions that pool deep in the caverns of our hearts: What am I doing here? Where is God in my pain? What do I do with my anger, jealousy, selfishness, loneliness? Why does God seem so far away? How can I feel closer to God? How do I pray? How can I know that God loves me? On and on the questions swirl… We look for ways to find even a brief moment of comfort to try to ease the struggle, set aside the pain, so that we can move on to the next item on our ever-growing lists. Sadly, we’ve learned how to offer and accept easy, pat-answers to what end up being some of life’s most difficult questions. Unfortunately, for most, these answers leave us unsatisfied with a soul that is still hurting and longing for something more.
This ever-growing reality in my own life is one of the reasons why the spiritual direction conversation has become so beautiful and so vital to me. When I meet with my director each month, it’s one of the few moments where there are no agendas set for me, no expectations, and there’s a chance to catch my breath and just be still. It’s in this place with my trusted friend, that I can look honestly at my questions, my weaknesses and strengths, my doubts and fears, all the joys and deep longings of my heart, to notice where God is loving me in the midst of it all. It’s in this quiet space that I’m able to discern what He is inviting me to, both in my relationship with Him and in my relationship with myself. This sacred exchange is what first drew me to the work of spiritual direction, both as a directee and director. As a director, it’s not about having answers for those that come to sit with me, or climbing to some ‘lofty’ spiritual place. It’s about the honesty of the search, walking side-by-side on the road with fellow travelers, a soul-friendship that is developed where together we can learn to press into these questions of life and faith in a real world, with a very real God, who loves us deeply and is inviting us to follow Him. It’s truly a beautiful encounter.