Buses. You wait ages for 1, then 3 turn up all at once.
This past week has seen a trilogy of events occur in quick succession.
It started with a meeting with a potential Spiritual Director. My Vocations Chaplain had recommended that I sought one out. They are people with whom you can explore matters of faith; people to help you wrestle with trying to understand what God is trying to say to you or in reconciling a world view with a Biblical view of life.
I had had a meeting with someone who, through questioning, listening and prayer, gave me a list of possible Spiritual Directors. They were all people who would have no connection with my church or my life so far, and people I was unlikely to meet in any other circumstance?. This was important. It would enable the director to help me with any challenges or struggles, whether they were connected with my exploration of ordination or indeed my church.
In their commitment to serve God, Spiritual Directors are willing to face rejection. They know that their place on someone’s journey may be very brief. They know that even if they meet someone, they may not be the right person to help. Their place may simply be to help someone improve their skill, or gift, of discernment, even if this is only to find the right Spiritual Director.
My list was exclusively female. In every aspect bar one that didn’t worry or phase me, indeed to an extent I felt it was good. I like to hear from people with different perspectives than my own. I feel like I have a fairly good male perspective on life being one, so a female perspective would be good.
As a married man and former teacher though, I know the dangers of being alone in a room with someone else. Both parties put themselves in a vulnerable position and Satan knows that in such times he can do a lot of damage through misunderstanding, temptation and gossip for example. I have seen tragedies, reputations lost, and marriages destroyed as the result of such situations.
My integrity before God, my wife, friends and others is very important. So it was only with the blessing of my wife that I began to contact the ladies on my list of Spiritual Directors. I was understandably relieved, when I arrived at my meeting with the first potential Spiritual Director, to briefly meet her husband. Knowing that I was there with his full knowledge and approval brought me great comfort.
The director offered a pearl of wisdom when I raised my concerns. Vicars will find themselves meeting with vulnerable people of the opposite sex in private and confidential occasions. Jesus didn’t discriminate against people and only choose to minister to men, and neither should I. But, like our respective spouses knowing of the meeting, safeguards need to be put in place so that each person can be seen to be honourable, faithful and acting with integrity.
Our meeting was an exploratory one. Logistics, boundaries, expectations and our backgrounds were shared. The gifts, skills and perceptiveness being offered to me by the director would clearly be helpful but I needed to find something else, something more. Call it chemistry, call it discerning God’s will, but I needed something that would tell me that this would be the right person to accompany me on my walk.
I may have found the director I’m looking for, but if I wouldn’t be giving her or the process enough respect if I instantly asked her to be my Spiritual Director. Impulsiveness would not serve me or my journey well. I knew, no matter what I felt at the end of the meeting that I needed to meet another person.
What did I learn through this meeting?
I noticed that I have begun to be a better listener, to not feel the need to fill a silence, or to share every experience and minute detail of my life. I noticed that the answers I got to my questions often surprised me. It made me realise that I need to watch I don’t predict or prejudge answers, that I need to leave my mind open and to truly listen to their answer.
I also noticed that in order to know ourselves better we need to know how others see us. Like my Vocations Chaplain, the Spiritual Director could see aspects of me that I had not noticed. Both gave me confidence by identifying gifts I didn’t realise that I possessed or confirming things I believed were true. They also challenged me when they helped me to identify things I needed to address or contemplate further.
What about the other 2 buses?
As with waiting for real buses, they turned up straight after the first.
The day after my meeting with the first, a second Spiritual Director contacted me to arrange to meet this week. It was immediately apparent that this person was very different from the first, just how different I will find out this week.
Then, as I finished my call with the second Spiritual Director, the third and most unexpected bus turned up. I had an email from the DDO .
I know it sounds strange to say that being contacted by the DDO was unexpected, after all I have been waiting for it since June. I had become used to the state I was in. God had given me peace in waiting and was showing how He was using it to teach and transform me. Bizarre as it sounds, leaving this state feels a bit sad. At this point I sense that God is rolling His eyes!
It seems clear to me that God believes I am ready to move onto the next stage. The ground has been prepared, new relationships are being formed. I am excited to see where they will take me and how different I will be when I am called to move on once more.
It is time to get on the bus.
- What is spritual direction? (the Retreat Association)
- Finding a Spiritual Director (integratedcatholiclife.org)
- A letter to my Spiritual Director & Soul Friend, now deceased (chrisnb.wordpress.com)
- Decide, Act (towardemmaus.wordpress.com)