Today, Kelly Chripczuk joins us with a post on Speaking Life through the process of Spiritual Direction. Kelly is one of the loveliest, most gifted writers I know on the internet, and I’m so honored to have her here today. You can find more of Kelly’s writing at A Field of Wild Flowers. Which I recommend you do. Posthaste.
“I sometimes lead retreats, and from time to time participants show me the notes they are taking as the retreat unfolds. The pattern is nearly universal: people take copious notes on what the retreat leader says, and they sometimes take notes on the words of certain wise people in the group, but rarely if ever do they take notes on what they themselves say. We listen for guidance everywhere except from within.” – Parker Palmer in “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation” (emphasis added)
After a few simple pleasantries, the offering of a cup of hot tea or cool water, we begin, almost always, with silence. Sitting in chairs not quite facing each other, we sit quietly waiting, shedding the many moments, worries and demands of the day until a space opens within and around us and we are together at home in ourselves, in the moment, in God.
Then the sharing begins and I listen and work hard to continue to hold open the space between words, between questions and answers, to hold open the silence that surrounds. This is quiet work, gentle and slow, drawing out the many questions that lead, most often, to a deeper place of longing and need. When, at last, that place is reached and the question of one’s heart’s desire rises, I have a choice – what now?
Too often the temptation arises in me to play the expert, advice-giver, wise counsel, or to speak conspiratorially of my own similar experiences, in order to draw an allegiance between the directee and myself. Often there’s pressure (spoken or unspoken) to do just that – the directee arrives in need, wanting answers and too often I’m tempted to give them.
But here’s the truth – often I don’t have the answer, I may not even fully understand the question, the longing being raised. Even if I do have an answer, most likely culled from the map of my own life’s journey, the giving of that answer is not the greatest gift I have to give.
It’s not my job to know the answer, but to recognize the question, the opening that leads. Then I have the opportunity to courageously invite us both to turn that question back to the silence within, to the One who dwells silently among us.
The moment in which I ask us to return to silence is a surrender, every time, of my agency in the conversation, a submission to the real Director in the room, the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know whether this practice of inviting God to speak, will ever stop feeling risky. What I can say, is that my willingness (often in fear and doubt) to hold open the silence creates space for the spirit to speak words of life that are truer and weightier than any I have to give. In letting go of the need to speak, the Word of life comes and speaks Life. Thus I am reminded again and again that I am not the giver of life, I am just the witness who tends the silence inviting others in to sit and wait together quietly in the presence of God.
Kelly Chripczuk is a Spiritual Director, Writer and Speaker who lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and four kids. She writes and speaks about the topics of identity, anxiety, transition and the practice of noticing and receiving the love of God in the midst of daily life.
Spiritual Direction is the art of offering companionship to others in their spiritual journey. A Director and directee will typically meet together once a month over a period of time for a time of prayer and sharing.
This is the 24th post in a series called 31 Days of Speaking Life. Want to know more about the 31 Days writing challenge? Hop on over here. Want to receive these posts via email straight into your inbox? Sign up below.