My soul was searching, and I wasn’t quite sure for what. That was my experience several years ago when I decided to schedule a personal retreat at St. Gertrude’s Monastery, a community for Benedictine sisters, located in central Idaho. At my husband’s urging, I scheduled an appointment with Sr. Lillian, a spiritual director, even though I knew little about spiritual direction (also known as soul care).
The first step to soul care is to listen and then take some sort of action step!
Sr. Lillian, a tiny, spry octogenarian, exudes joy. Despite her gentle demeanor, I was aware of an underlying no-nonsense strength of character. When I entered her small office, I felt safe and sensed she was trustworthy, both essential when choosing to make our souls vulnerable.
Sr. Lillian began our session with this question: “How is it with you and God?” Having worked in the counseling field for many years as well as being certified as a life coach, I recognize the importance of questions and realized the one this diminutive nun asked was powerful.
A few years later while training for spiritual directioncertification, one reading assignment was The Practice of Spiritual Direction by Barry and Connolly. It explained, “spiritual direction is concerned with helping a person directly with his or her relationship with God … .” In many human problems, the authors noted, “the most fundamental issue is that relationship and its underlying questions: Who is God for me, and who am I for God?”
Since that encounter with Sr. Lillian, I have worked with several spiritual directors. While I value the practice of spiritual direction, I understand determining which spiritual director is the best choice can be difficult to discern. I hope you find suggestions from my experience helpful.
Steps in Finding the Best Spiritual Director for You
- Referral from a trusted resource is one of the best ways to choose a spiritual director. After working effectively with a Christian life coach, I said to her, “I feel like God is trying to say something to me, and I cannot figure out what.” She suggested working with a spiritual director (SD) and gave me the name of Dr. Deborah Gill. In our first session, Debbie introduced a couple contemplative practices. My soul settled, and I felt for the first time as if my spirit had found its true home. After a while, I became a member of Cohort 1 in the Sherpa Certificate in Spiritual Direction Training Program Dr. Gill and her husband, Jan, formed.
- Once in the program, I needed to find a new SD. I located Carolyn on the Evangelical Spiritual Direction Association (ESDA) website. I liked her bio and felt we could work well together. Even though Carolyn’s style was different, I experienced new levels of “soul” expansion. As a spiritual-director-in-training, I realized I was learning from both Debbie and Carolyn, helping me develop my own unique spiritual direction style.
- After a year, wanting to experience yet another approach, I told Carolyn I’d like to work with a different spiritual director. She suggested interviewing three to four people as a way to hone my discernment skills. Initially uncomfortable, I knew her suggestion was solid. Returning to the ESDA website, I selected four different women who indicated expertise in an area I wished to explore and scheduled interview appointments.
- Bonding immediately with Mary, the first woman interviewed, I wondered if I should cancel the other three appointments but decided to stick with the original plan. The second person was very nice, but I did not feel a connection. The third woman provided me with a piece of invaluable insight, and even though I liked her, I sensed she wasn’t the best fit. The fourth woman—Mary #2—was obviously skilled and knowledgeable about the area of soul care I felt I needed to explore. She was highly intuitive but also gracious and kind. My heart discerned, “She’s the one!”
- My next step was to contact each of the other women about my decision and thank them. To Mary #1, I noted, “I have a hunch sometime in the future, we will be working together.”
- Mary #2 and I met several months longer than planned initially. During that time, I experienced a painful family situation, and she was the perfect SD to help me transition during a season of loss and grief. When I explained another aspect of “soul care” I wanted to explore, she wholeheartedly supported my decision to work with a new SD. Good SD’s, I have learned, are neither territorial nor possessive. They trust the work the Holy Spirit is doing in their directees and desire what is best for each directee.
- I am now working with Mary #1. The timing I believe is God-ordained, and the fit feels perfect!
Prior to beginning my spiritual direction training program, I was given the grace of a deeply intimate spiritual encounter while meditating on Psalm 23. Verse 3 gripped my soul: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The process of choosing a spiritual director is one way I have learned to trust the “Good Shepherd” to lead me in right paths.
While working with a SD who is the best choice at the right time, my love for God has grown; self-awareness leading to God awareness has expanded; and as a result, I am becoming better equipped to love others with the heart of Jesus.
Bio: Sue Reeve is a member of Sherpa Cohort 1 and currently serves as Sherpa’s Associate Director of Communications. She lives in the beautiful resort hamlet of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and is wife to Ron, mother to two adult daughters, and grandma to five amazing grandkids. Following retirement from a career in state government, Sue began working with a Christian life coach and found the experience so rewarding that she completed the requirements to become certified in coaching through International Coach Federation. She served on staff at Lake City Church from 2013-2021 in Care Ministries, including pastoral counseling and coaching. As a final Sherpa project, Sue is writing a 50-day contemplative devotional book. Her personal blog, Listening on the Journey …, can be found at www.suereeve.com.