Dear Father John, Though I have read many of your posts on this site, I am still struggling with taking the leap and making an appointment. I do want to grow in my relationship to Christ but how do I know if I am really ready for this and it is the right thing for me right now? It is a bit intimidating and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time…
Relax. The first thing you need to know is that God is already hard at work in your soul. The mere fact that you are having this struggle is proof of it. Really. Imagine how pleased our Lord is as he sees you wanting to come closer to him and wondering about whether spiritual direction is a good next step… So many of his children never think of him at all, and you are thinking about new ways to know, love, and follow him better! This is clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is guiding you. And if he has been guiding you thus far, he will continue to do so. As Cardinal Newman put it in one of his famous poems: “…So long Thy power has blessed me; sure it still will lead me on…” Be sure he will keep leading you on.
The easiest way for you to see if you are ready for this is to try it. For example, you could go on a retreat (preferably a spiritual exercises retreat), and meet with a spiritual director during the retreat. See how it goes, see what it feels like, see if it helps you. Or, you could simply ask for a one-time meeting with a spiritual director to talk about what you are doing and what more you could be doing to grow spiritually. Having an initial experience will help you discern if God is offering you this means of growth. You can do this without making a long-term commitment.
But in general, I would offer two other reflections.
First, spiritual direction is not just for the elite. Every Christian can benefit from this kind of guidance, as long as they are sincere about trying to know, love, and follow Jesus more closely. You may have the impression that spiritual direction is only for spiritual marines. No. As a general principle, I would say that spiritual direction is the right thing for everyone all the time, if it is the kind of direction we are describing here on this site.
Second, you may be overestimating the role of spiritual direction. You don’t graduate from confession to spiritual direction, for example. Not at all. The sacraments, moral virtue, and prayer remain the irreplaceable staples of our spiritual diets. Spiritual direction merely helps us make better use of those means of growth that God has given us. It helps us create more space for the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. It is like a catalyst for improvement in the other, more central relationships and activities of life in a fallen world. Getting spiritual direction doesn’t involve leaving any of those things behind.
Finally, don’t listen to the voice saying that you would be wasting someone’s time. If you are willing to be sincere and docile in receiving direction, and if God provides someone willing to direct you, that person will be fulfilling their mission (as a spiritual director) by helping you fulfill your mission of drawing closer to Christ. And what could be a better use of time than that?
Yours in Christ, Father John Bartunek, LC, STL
Feature image art: Ein ernstes Gespräch (A Serious Conversation), Ludwig Johann Passini, by 1903, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.