Holy conversations happen with small groups like with these friends above, (Cheryl, Cynthia, and Alisha), as we open our hearts and share what matters most to us. This kind of group spiritual direction happens all over town as people gather in various groups supported by our School for Contemplative Living. We do not meet to discuss the weather, the football teams, or national politics. We gather to bare our souls in trust that contemplative friends will hold our spiritual journeys in their hearts and help us know we belong in the human family.
Holy conversations also happen one-on-one as those of us who serve as spiritual directors are blessed to engage in holy listening with friends we meet along their spiritual journeys, (like Claudia in the pic below).
Today was an especially meaningful day in my life as a spiritual director. I was blessed to visit with several participants before and after a sacred yoga group at First Grace UMC. Collette and Ryan joined Karen and me for the first time as we explored the oneness of our heart/mind/bodies. Then when I arrived at the Mercy Endeavors Senior Center I learned that Ms. Louise was the only participant who had not left on a field trip. This African-American widow told moving stories from her 91 years with a tender voice and a resonant heart. Then she sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” as well as a song she wrote her husband while he was away in WWII. She filled my ears with beauty and my heart with sacredness by just being herself.
Then six of us gathered at Loyola University for a centering prayer time and closed with the sharing of our joys and concerns – from surgeries to job celebrations to ministry challenges with college students. Sitting in silence together and sharing our hearts brought a sense of communion, belonging, solidarity, and community.
Then a local jazz musician came for a period of individual spiritual direction, looking at his personal life and service of the world through music. He explored the challenge of trusting the Spirit’s creative lead in his music when there is often pressure to only perform whatever music makes people comfortable. He carefully entered into a place of self-compassion, which is new for him.
Then a long-time resident of the streets of New Orleans told me stories about his journey toward finding housing: the obstacles, the need for long patience, and the willingness to keep the faith that God would make a way someday. He didn’t need to be preached to, as though I could offer any advice or guidance. He needed to be heard, respected, and cared for with simple compassion.
My last guest was a female pastor who came for her first session of spiritual direction. She needed to share the heart-aches, self-doubt, tears, vocational questions, and human loneliness of being in the role of pastor. She needed no advice, no subtle pressure to make preordained decisions about her future, and no quick fixes. She wanted two ears and an open heart of compassion. She needed to wonder how she is seen through the eyes of The One Who Loves Her So, when her own mind betrays her with self-judgment. She needed to be reminded of how she radiates as she serves. And she needed to have her freedom to follow her own Inner Guide affirmed. I think we will walk together for a while, until she finds her way beck Home.
Connecting with people through holy conversations is a treasure for spiritual directors. We are so privileged to be invited into the region of the heart by relative strangers. And we are so blessed to play the role of observer of the sacred, with no pressure to know answers or provide solutions. Knowing the nearness of God in such moments grants us great freedom to radiate lovingkindness as best we can, and to let go of playing God ourselves.
Someday, when I finally become wise and mature, I hope I can master this art wherever I go. Until then, I will stumble along. I need a lot of practice in days ahead. Pray for me won’t you? May I learn to listen long, love well, and mostly keep my mouth shut again tomorrow with whoever crosses my path. Amen.