So what does a sixty-year-old woman running with a dog have to do with becoming a Spiritual Director?
Everything. In one picture I am instantaneously and joyously returned to the freedom of discovering more of the authentic Self, as God made me. The light. The shadow. The healed and the wounded Self as one of God’s beloved kids.
And that’s where we start being able to help others in their discovery and healing – in the recognizing, honoring and healing of our own. How else can we resist letting our stuff roll over onto those we are listening to and with? How else can we find the empathy of struggle and hold the hope of being seen and loved by God if not first seen, as we really are, and loved by the person sitting right beside us on the journey?
Some of this I knew before entering the School for Spiritual Directors at Pecos. I knew from my own defeats and surrenders, self study and disciplines, and from my academic experience as an undergrad in Sociology, studying as an addiction’s counselor, and in volunteering for manning the phones at the Houston Crisis Hot Line. In all of these I studied the important business of discovering and caring for the authentic Self and the child within.
But not until I had done the hard work of chiseling in the dark with God as my support and solace, did I dare to start understanding that finding a relationship with God is not all about work.
It’s also about play, and following the desires of my heart as God placed in my heart.
Let me explain.
“Think of something that you would like to do just for fun”, one of our instructors prompted. As usual, the invitation struck more fear than delight, because fun to me never looked like it “should” look. And, what if I didn’t pick the “right” thing for having fun?
“Would there be any way possible for me to get to play with Sophie [the Monastery dog] for an afternoon?” I asked in a whisper.
No more than twenty-four hours later I found myself, with little effort on my part and unsuspecting possibility, being asked to help take care of Sophie! I later discovered that my wish had not been communicated, but even if it had, it would not have diminished my shock and excitement in being asked. I nearly had that brain-freeze-thing that takes a hold when something really good starts coming at me like compliments, or invitations, or being “chosen”.
I’m sure my eyes were nearly bugging out of my head, and even though I felt I was close to flying right off the face of this earth he continued with instructions about her leash, her food and water bowl, and taking her to the meadow. My meadow! But before he concluded talking, I heard in my own voice, and in my own heart,
“My God, my God, You know the desires of my heart.”
In that moment, and the many that followed including rolling around the grass with Sophie, trips around the meadow that I had walked so many times before alone, and following her lead of new discoveries, I experienced a deeper level of trust in being who God made me to be. Whether it was running without care of what my hair looked like, or declining questions about how come I got to take care of her, I stepped into the joy of God knowing and meeting the desires of my heart. And into further acceptance that:
sometimes gifts come without knowing what to ask, or knowing the right words in thought or prayer.
I’m not sure that I kept too true to the answer of what running with a dog has to do with becoming a Spiritual Director. So let me add what my Director told me when I asked if I should pursue this path of training. He said, “You either are or aren’t a Spiritual Director. No school can make you one; they can only confirm what you already know in your Soul as true, and support you to be as God made you to be.”
And that, I believe, is the simplest and truest answer for all of us: support one another to find and be who God already made us to be – beautiful, joyful, hard-working and easy-loving children of God.