“Wow, God actually has to show up for this to work,” I kept thinking as I began the first leg of spiritual direction training.
A ministry dirty secret is how hard you can work for the Kingdom of God without actually needing God at all. I can cook for crowds. I can listen kindly. I can provide wise counsel. I can work with leadership teams and supervise staff and even teach the Bible without particularly needing God to show up.
Maybe because I’m always veering on the edge of skepticism myself, I therefore love and fear those moments when God has to show up or everything I’ve done is in vain:
- Planning a 7 week summer urban missions project for college students and realizing there’s nothing I can do to make kids love the poor or care about justice or want to be racially reconciled. . . unless God shows up.
- Laying a hand on someone as I pray for healing or God’s touch. Once again, nothing will happen. . . unless God shows up.
- Sitting in my chair attempting to “listen” to God, wondering if the thoughts or words that come are my own creation. . . and when I hear words of grace and love beyond what would ever come from my own mind, wondering whether God just showed up.
I signed up for the Selah Spiritual Direction program primarily because it’s located in Boston and therefore doable with kids still at home. I didn’t know they use a contemplative model.Imagine my feelings of panic as I’ve already noted that I’m not particularly gifted at contemplation. . . or being very spiritual.
“Selah” is the Hebrew word interspersed through the Psalms that no one is completely sure what it means. Many think it’s a musical direction for singers to pause as they praise God. So not surprising, the Selah spiritual direction model centers on helping directees experience and hear from God, often stopping for silence. A lot of silence. A lot of sometimes deafening silence where all I could hear was the blur of my own inner chatter.
Yet I loved and felt terrified by the theology underlying this program:
- God is real and active
- God wants to be known and experienced
- God’s already active in people’s lives—loving and wooing them
- Every person has the capability to know and experience God
- Spiritual directors are midwives for that process
Or, using another metaphor, we’re doorstops who hold open the door so that the wind of God can blow into the room.
I love this model because God’s in charge, God’s the initiator, God’s got to show up. I’m terrified for all the same reasons.
Who needs God? Turns out I do. Especially if I’m going to be a spiritual director.
So as I begin this new journey, all I can say is:
God, please show up!