“You know, some people sleep until 6…”
That’s my first thought almost every morning as my incredible wife, Suz and I are descended upon by our three amazing[ly rested] children. She and I then play a fun little game called “No, you forgot, I got up first yesterday.” The winner gets to burrow back into their pillow for another glorious 2.5 minutes of sleep; the snooze-less loser has their chance at victory postponed until tomorrow. From that moment on, our morning is filled with prepping kids and ourselves for the day- lunches, bags, keys, phones, laptops, and so on. My point is, we’re busy. Like most folks in our world, our schedules fill up quickly and can easily 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 myself, and especially with God. But living fully present in our fullest-self (hearts, minds, and bodies) become nearly impossible as the currants of progress, productivity, and consumption keep turning. We can also often feel as if we have started flowing downhill and gaining speed. I’m regularly finding that when we don’t create the necessary time to slow down and simply ‘be’ with ourself and our Creator, we risk slipping into a kind of living-slumber. This state leaves us vulnerable to being swept away in the rapids of our surrounding culture and having its value-systems carry us off to wherever they wish. Unfortunately, for some, these rapids are delivering death-blows to relationships, work, and faith. These modes of existence seem far from what the poet of Psalm 1 envisioned when he penned that those who live saturated in the wisdom and teachings of God are “like trees who are planted by streams of water…” If you’re like me, being planted and nourished by God’s living water is not always the first image that comes to mind when I look back through many years of my life.
I understand that this “being present” or “slowing down and staying connected” stuff can sound a bit impractical and idealistic, or maybe even a utopic vision of life, but think about it – what outlet do we have to genuinely process the events that are happening in our life? We all have questions that pool deep in the caverns of our hearts and minds. What am I doing with life? Where is God? What is He doing in my life? What do I do with my anger, jealousy, selfishness, loneliness? Why does God seem so far away? How can I find true freedom and change? How do I pray? On and on the questions swirl.
We look for ways to find even a brief moment of comfort to try to ease the struggle. It becomes easy to set aside the questions or pain so that we can simply move on to the next item on our ever-growing lists. This pressing temptation in my own life is one of the reasons the spiritual direction conversation has become so beautiful and so vital to me. When I come to Spiritual Direction, 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 companion that I can look honestly at my questions, my weaknesses, strengths, doubts and fears, all the joys and deep longings of my heart, and to see that God actively loves me in the midst of it all. It’s in this quiet space that I’m able to discern His invitations, both in my relationship with Him and myself.
This sacred exchange is what first drew me to the work of Spiritual Direction – first as a directee and now as director. It is what continues to draw me. Spiritual Direction is not about having all the right answers for those that come or seated atop some ‘lofty’ spiritual place. It’s about the honesty of the search, the journeying with fellow travellers, and the friendship that is developed. It’s in this conversation where we can learn to press into these questions with a very real God, who loves us deeply and is inviting us all to follow Him. It’s truly a beautiful encounter.