An older ministry friend and I meet monthly for personal updates and prayer. This special companion is gentle, soft-spoken, insightful, encouraging. Time with him is a rich gift of grace.
About a year ago, a pattern developed during our check-ins that I was slow to pick up on. It went something like this:
- Syd: “I’m struggling with these questions and issues right now. . . . ” (and on goes the list).
- Friend: “Yes, I see.” (gravely nods head)
- Syd: “And some additional items I’ve been pondering are. . . . ” (the list continues)
- Friend: (more grave nodding, followed by) “When will you see a spiritual director?”
After hearing this question for the third consecutive month, I finally took it seriously, and made arrangements to meet with a retired CRC pastor who had been trained to provide spiritual direction.
And now I understand why my friend was so insistent.
I have come to see my spiritual director as a “Psalm 139 companion.” There is so much in this psalm that I love:
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. . . .
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (vvs. 1-6, 23, 24)
My vision is filled with blind spots. I find it easy to see challenges, confusions, uncooperative people, interminable meetings, unreasonable expectations, slow-moving processes. For some strange reason, negative things are much easier to see and focus on than those things that point to the gracious presence of God through the gentle winds of the Holy Spirit.
The spiritual director I meet with has a gift for asking me questions that challenge me to wonder about the manifold ways God is present with me in all that I am and do. And as I try to respond to his prodding questions, the Holy Spirit helps me to remember that:
- My fast-lane pace needs to rest in our Lord’s unhurriedness.
- My need for accomplishment needs to be enfolded within his definition of faithfulness.
- My complaints about others need to be tempered by our Lord’s manner of walking with entire communities of redeemed sinners, including me.
- My confusions need to be released within his all-knowing embrace.
My monthly check-ins cleanse my eyes every time, renewing me again to “fix my eyes upon Jesus to run with perseverance the race marked out before me” (Heb. 12:1-2). I’ve learned that I can’t overcome my blind spots alone. I’m grateful for my Psalm 139 companion.
What about you? You may want to check out the Pastor’s Spiritual Vitality Toolkit for more ideas and suggestions for finding such a companion.