As I embarked on my journey with a new spiritual director I brought with me a mental list of ways the spiritual director might help. Our regular meetings would bring greater accountability in my commitment to daily prayer, mass, and regular confession. I was looking forward to having another partner in discernment, and I of course was hoping to grow in my relationship with the Lord. What I wasn’t prepared for was the effects of spiritual direction on my vocation as a mother. In the last year, the sessions of spiritual direction led to a transformation in my relationships not only with the Lord but also with my children.
It is tempting to judge the quality of our prayer by our emotional responses to the prayer time, but a much better way is by looking at its effect on our community life. If we are struggling in our service to the family, our prayer life is the first place we should look for answers, and spiritual direction can help us to discover more deeply what needs to be done. Spiritual direction has taught me that it isn’t as much how I feel in prayer time, but rather how I act out of prayer time that matters.
This is actually the adaptation of a Carmelite principle – the quality of prayer life influences the quality of the community life, and by extension the quality of the service that can be offered to others. As a mother, when I am able to enter more fully into my prayer life, with discipline and direction, the fruits of that prayer life is seen in our family life and my ability to serve those with love. This doesn’t mean that time in prayer will eliminate the conflicts of family life, but rather prayer prepares our hearts and minds for those situations.
By analogy, if we look at our spiritual life as an exercise for the soul, the routines of prayer and spiritual direction are our training sessions. It is in these sessions that we learn to listen to the voice of God, we discover our weaknesses and invite the Holy Spirit to aid us in overcoming them. Once the ‘Amen’ passes our lips and we return to family life, we are challenged to practice those virtues about which we are learning and praying.
The regularity and intensity of prayer required by my spiritual director led to my making changes in my daily routines, drawing clearer personal boundaries, and viewing relationships differently. In order to meet the commitments of prayer, I have to prioritize things differently and say no to some things in order to say yes to the Lord.
Although there is more work to be done, I have become more patient with my family, both more giving and forgiving, and more intentional in my interactions. I have learned to say less and listen more. I am working towards giving up certain vices or attachments in order to more fully engage with my children. I am learning to slow down. I am learning when to speak with confidence, and when to listen with humility.
Spiritual direction is also teaching me to trust more deeply in the Lord, and thus be more relaxed when things go array or when family demands lead me in an unintended direction. I am learning to surrender, focus on what really matters, and disregard that which does not. I am learning to wait for His time, in my life, in my children’s lives, in our family’s life.
Editor’s note: For suggestions on how to find a spiritual director if you do not have one, you can request our free download, “10 Steps to Finding a Spiritual Director” here.