I started reading a book for the spiritual direction training course I’m hoping to start this autumn, after I finish the chaplaincy training (CPE for those of you in the biz) I’m starting in May. The book is called Holy Listening, by Margaret Guenther, and I already love it. It doesn’t hurt that it’s short and she doesn’t use complicated words. But she also does a great job of describing how hard it is to describe what spiritual direction even is. Then she describes it (at least in chapter one) as hospitality.
I kept thinking, Hey! That’s like what I was talking about in my last blogpost! Then I felt sheepish about the fact that that last blogpost was kind of a while ago, and in it I claimed I had other imagery besides a Spiritually Hospitable Place for my still Nebulous NonProfit. Thing is, after I said that, I started having trouble describing, even to myself, what that “other imagery” actually was, and then life got complicated, and then, as I frequently do with blogs when life gets complicated, I gave up.
But today when I was reading, I was so excited to discover that I am on the right track, both about how hard spiritual direction is to describe, and also about its being a form of hospitality, that I just had to share it with you. And I guess I’ll share you a few quotes from the book, too, just to show you what I mean.
First she describes the human condition:
Since the expulsion from Eden, we have been a people on the move, despite attempts at self-delusion that we have somehow arrived. We follow in the footsteps of our peripatetic Lord, always on the way, our faces turned resolutely or reluctantly toward Jerusalem (p. 9).
Then she begins to describe what we need spiritual directors for:
… travelers cannot survive in comfort without hospitality … Even the most self-sufficient cannot escape this need … (p. 9).
… The spiritual director is a host who gives to her guests … in the truest and deepest sense, reflecting the abundant hospitality shown by the host at the heavenly banquet (p. 10).
I’m not sure that’s me, but I would really like it to be someday. In preparation for I-Want-To-Be-THAT-When-I-Grow-Up, I can certainly recognise the need for some serious housecleaning–and housekeeping.
The first task is one of housecleaning, of creating our own inner order … Literal housecleaning is tiresome but straightforward work … [with] results that we can see and admire. Spiritual housecleaning is more subtle and cannot be done alone (p 11).
That’s for sure. I seem to be going through a phase of inner housecleaning at the moment. I keep thinking I’ll be done soon, but you know how when you pick up the pile of papers you left on the table you might find a half-eaten sandwich under there, and then when you pick that up there are ants? Maybe we never are done soul-cleaning, when we get serious about being a hospitable person–for other people, and especially for Jesus. In light of this, I went to see my spiritual director this week. I spent probably half of the session sobbing, but somehow, with very few words, he helped me open up, not so much to him, but to Jesus there in the room with us. When that happened, Jesus and I together were able to uncover some metaphorical laundry I had shoved down into some hampers in the corner of my soul, and begin some cleaning up. The discovery and the results were almost startling, although it seems like laundry, either literal or metaphorical, had best not be startling.
Hospitality is an occasion for storytelling with both laughter and tears, and then the guest moves on, perhaps with some extra provisions or a roadmap for the next stage of the journey (p 14).
Or some clean laundry. Which, let’s face it, is a pretty big deal when you’re on the road.