I STILL Can’t Fix You, But…

A few years back I wrote a post about Coldplay. Well, Coldplay and spiritual growth.

I was thinking about it this morning. I’ve been in a class this week about being a “spiritual director”, an individual who helps someone become (and remain) open to growing.

One of the helpful metaphors that has come up in the class is the spiritual director as a sort of “midwife”—we are there to “assist” in the birth, but it’s really not our baby nor our labor. We may know a thing or two, but we are not a professional, not separate from the situation. We are in the birth process with you, helping as we can, naming things as we can.

But ultimately the birth process is yours, not ours.

In other words, I still can’t fix you, but

  • I’ll be with you during the process
  • I’ll try to help identify what you’re going through
  • I’ll comfort you when I can and encourage you when you need it

And I’ll celebrate with you when “new birth” arrives.

 

Actually Kids Really LIKE Vegetables

I remember the first time my wife set some steamed broccoli on my plate.

Our daughter was about a year old, and she was starting to eat regular food.

But broccoli? 

I looked at Shana with my eyebrows raised.

“Our children are going to go up eating healthy, and Emily needs to see us eating vegetables.”

But broccoli?

Like many other kids who grew up in the—oh let’s face it who grew up anytime in the last 50 yearsbroccoli was the food that we all made fun of.

No one ever actually ate it, did they? 

Well, regardless of my history, I took a bite.

It wasn’t bad.

And so began our long running association with fruits and vegetables.

At one point, things got so bad that we got Emily a “Costco-sized” can of Del Monte Green Beans for her birthday and she acted like we’d just gotten her a car simply because she was so used to eating fresh or frozen green beans that the added preservatives in the can was like eating cake to her. 

Really.

But you know what? Kids really like vegetables.

We think they only like fish sticks and pizza, but when kids get a taste of real food, they tend to want more.

It’s like that with true spirituality.

Last June I went on a mission trip with some folks from my church. We ranged in age from 15 to 45, with most of us (okay: them) in their 20s. We built houses all day, and hung out with some kids in villages around Panajachel, Guatemala. At night we would sit up on the roof of our hotel and just unpack the day.

There was an older gentleman who wasn’t really a part of our church, but he’d traveled with our team to see what Porch de Salomon was up to. This guy—he has since become a spiritual mentor/director to me—would sit with us, and while most of us were just trying to recover from the day or crack bad jokes, he would start to ask us very simple questions:

“So how did you grow spiritually today?”

“Where did you see God today?”

These were not crazy, earth-shattering questions, and yet somehow they were the questions we needed to answer. 

And as we began to answer, the most amazing thing began to happen:

tears were shed…

poignant stories—of vulnerability and roundedness—began to be shared…

fears were exposed…

hopes were laid out…

All from these simple questions, and an older individual who refused to let us stay on the surface, and who was unafraid to lead us to tender places.

Even when what we thought wanted was just a chance to knock back a beer or two and laugh.

What we really needed was to go into our souls.

It revolutionized my understanding of what people are seeking.

I thought people—in particular younger people—were in search of superficial, tepid spirituality. I thought they wanted to work and drink and laugh and then shop and then go home.

But I was wrong.

What I learned is that people are hunger, even desperate for something real and deep and life-changing.

They want to cry. They want to tell their stories. And share their fears. They—we—want to be known.

I see so much in church “discipleship” that is designed to get people serving, and giving, and participating, but I’m not sure I see efforts to cultivate spiritual directors, or mentoring. I’m not sure I hear people relentlessly asking the basic spiritual questions we are all hungry for.

“How have I grown spiritually today?”

“Have I been honest with myself and others?”

“Have I hurt someone today? Do I need to ask forgiveness from someone?”

These are the thoughts that people want to think about.

Sometimes it seems like the church is convinced that people want “Happy Meals” or some kind of GMO perfection, but what we want is something earthy, connected, and trusted.

Like vegetables.

Eugene Peterson on Spiritual Direction

For a season now, I’ve been pursuing a spiritual direction, and trying to be a better “director” of people’s souls myself.

I was recently going through Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integritywhich has shaped me as a pastor as much as any other book I’ve ever read—with a friend, and re-read what he has to say about giving spiritual direction.

(Incidentally, I think that “spiritual direction”—or mentoring, or whatever you’d call personal, spiritual influence—is one of the most desperately needed activities in our culture. I think much of 21st century North American culture has no need for a bigger, better, faster worship gathering. We need a more sober, consistent spiritual direction and discipleship for God’s people).

So here’s what Peterson says:

  1. Cultivate an attitude of awe with and for every person you meet with. Every meeting is a privilege, and an opportunity to see God work.
  2. Cultivate an attitude of ignorance. We can make assumptions about peoples’ motives and feelings. Most of the time they are wrong. We do better to assume nothing and ask questions. (This is something I’m trying desperately to grow in.)
  3. Cultivate a predisposition to prayer. Prayer is the furnace, and oftentimes what people really want from us is to learn to run the furnace for themselves. They don’t want our advice; they want to learn how encounter God for themselves.