When I began setting up this blog, despite all the helpful tutorials on the WordPress site, I managed to stumble into a problem I couldn’t resolve. Since my wife has much more experience in these matters, when she saw me struggling, she quickly offered to help. But when I tried to describe the problem, I suddenly found myself stricken with a severe case of inarticulateness. I knew what I was trying to do, but didn’t have the necessary vocabulary to describe it. The resulting feeling of frustration was profound . . . both for me and for my wife! After more than 40 years of public speaking, and having a fairly rich vocabulary, this wasn’t an experience I have run into very often. It was a humbling moment, to say the least!
As I have reflected on that event, I realize that many of us face a similar problem when it comes to describing our spiritual experiences. We often simply don’t have an adequate vocabulary to describe our encounters with that Transcendent Reality that transform our lives forever. Whether it’s the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or an unexpected opportunity that leads us into unknown (and perhaps uncomfortable!) territory, we find ourselves without the words to describe the full scope of its significance for us. Our first response may be to remain silent and to not tell anyone about it. We fear sounding foolish or, worse yet, crazy! But ultimately, we can’t keep silent. The experience demands that we share it. It has become part of who we are – part of our story, part of our identity – that can’t be denied or hidden if we are to live authentically. Although we didn’t seek or welcome this experience, we somehow have to find a way to embrace it and incorporate it into the way we understand ourselves and our relationship to those around us.
This is where working with a Spiritual Director (a.k.a. Spiritual Guide) can be helpful. Having an opportunity to explore our personal life story is something that doesn’t happen in most of our everyday relationships. We tell only part of the story to friends and colleagues. We tell other parts of our story to strangers and our employers. Our closest family members only know part of our story. Even we ourselves only know part of the complex, ever-unfolding saga! But the spiritual direction relationship can slowly and patiently help us explore the ways in which the Divine Presence is shaping our story in ways that bless us and others. In this process, we begin to find the words we need to appreciate and name the wonderful Mystery unfolding around us and within us. That certainly has been my experience with my Spiritual Director. Perhaps it can be that way for you too. It’s a step well worth thinking about. A Spiritual Director doesn’t try to indoctrinate you into his or her particular tradition, but to help you find and deepen your own relationship with the Divine. For anyone who isn’t sure where their spiritual journey is taking them, this may be the first step to consider.