Carrying Stillness :: When It's Not What You Want to Learn

Come and sit.

Shadows on the invitation.

I wish I could dress this up pretty, but I can’t:

I really don’t want to be learning this.

I’m pretty sure my last session with my spiritual director — the one in which I discovered the invitation to learn to carry stillness — could be categorized as the session in which I was at my least gracious. 

It’s usually the case that when God and I connect, I respond immediately. Zero questions asked. This is because God has earned my trust. Over the long history we’ve shared these 15 years now, I’ve grown to trust him implicitly — because he has demonstrated himself again and again to be completely trustworthy. I’ve grown to want what he wants, even if it’s hard. It hasn’t, for a long time, been hard to say yes to what he’s asked.

This time, though, I could barely get there.

Round and round I went in that session with God and Elaine.

“I don’t want to do this,” I said. “I don’t want this to be the invitation. I don’t want to learn this. Please don’t let it be true. This sucks. No.” 

Elaine, for her part, couldn’t stop smiling and clapping. She was exuberant at what she saw happening between God and me in that hour we shared. She was thrilled at the invitation for me to learn how to carry stillness. Her face was radiant about it all.

While she could have been self-conscious at how very different her affect was from my own, the difference between us did help me. It made a difference in my response to the whole thing to see this woman who has walked with me nearly five years — who knows my story and the landscape of my journey with God — responding the way she was. 

I didn’t want the invitation, but she was bubbling over with joy about it. 

I noticed her response, and it helped. 

It gave me pause in my fight.

Still, it wasn’t easy to say yes.

Even today, it’s not easy. I’m still struggling to say yes. I still want the invitation to go away. I don’t want it to be true. 

The truth for me in this? I want the quiet and calm of my previous existence back. I want the spaciousness. The room to breathe. The reflective, prayerful pace. That feels like life. And while I know it sounds privileged for me to say that, I had come to believe that way of being in the world was part of my vocational calling. I saw it as a key way I was meant to hold God and others in this world.

This moving from one immediate need of the moment to the next, one right after the other? It doesn’t feel like life. It feels compressed. Like I’m just surviving. Thin. 

I don’t want to live a thin life. I want a life brimmed full of meaning.

Today, I don’t know how to get from here to there — to the place where even the stacked-full life of activity feels just as brimmed full of meaning as the slow, reflective pace. I’m not there, but I suspect someday I will be. I know all God’s invitations are good and right.

In the meantime, I’m grieving the loss of what was. 

Beginning the Work Again :: Embracing My Humanity


The light above us.

Along the lines of relearning my not-God-ness comes the embrace of my humanity, all with the aim of pointing people to God and not me.

This is where something in my head can sometimes get really messed up.

I think about how we are the body of Christ here on earth. How we are meant to be Christ to others. How we are meant to keep growing into the image of God in us. And how, for someone who is a spiritual director or just generally in ministry, this can get even more complex because so often we are the visible image of the invisible God for others. 

Cue the questions of where we end and God begins, and vice versa. 

When I stop to think about it, it’s funny that I take over-responsibility for things and people, given the metaphor of us as the body of Christ. We are each a part, not the whole. I’m an ear, or an eye. Which necessarily means I can’t be a foot or an arm or a finger. I can’t — and am not meant to — shoulder all of the concerns of the world or be Christ’s body in the world on my own. We need each other. 

Spiritual directors like to describe what’s happening in spiritual direction by using the image of three chairs: one for the directee, one for the director, and one for the unseen but very real presence of God.

I was talking with my supervisor about this picture last week, and we were talking about how often we assume those chairs to be positioned equidistant from each other, like an equilateral triangle. Sometimes I’m even tempted to believe the chairs held by me and my directee are the ones in “full color” in the picture, with God’s chair kind of greyed out, or perhaps even off in the corner, since he’s an unseen, non-audible presence in the room. 

And yet here’s what’s really true:

Spiritual direction is ultimately about the directee’s connection with God.

If anything, it’s the directee’s and God’s chairs that are meant to be “full color.” If anything, my chair is the one meant for the corner so that I don’t get in the way of what God and the directee are meant to find in one another. I’m a facilitator, but the directee and God are the main players there. They’re the reason we’ve come together in the first place.

In relationship, if I shoulder the God role, then I keep someone from receiving what God alone is meant to give them. I unwittingly make them dependent on me instead of pointing them toward the one upon whom they’re meant to depend. 

I want my life to be about this: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message version: “I deliberately [keep] it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.” 

May you always see me pointing you to Jesus. This is the prayer of my heart. 

Still Points in the Day: Spiritual Direction

A pair.

I’ve been meeting with my spiritual director, Elaine, for four years now, and every month, our hour-long sessions are like breathing fresh, pure air. I have so many memories of leaving her home with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step, deeply encouraged at having encountered God in some new way during our time together.

The last few months, our sessions have been even more important to me than usual. By the time I reach our appointment, I have felt on my last breath spiritually, needing so much the gift of shared time and space with this person who knows me and my relationship with God and sits with me in it with wisdom, patience, full acceptance, and love. 

I told Elaine yesterday that our time together is so helpful for me right now because it provides a place for me to sit with the reality of my life with God and not be alone in it. Sharing that space with her makes me braver. And in a season of difficulty in my life with God, I need all the bravery I can get to face this reality and be present to it without distraction or avoidance. 

I am so thankful for the gift of spiritual direction in my life. 

Do you have a place of companionship like spiritual direction in your life right now?

Prayer Can Be ... Spiritual Direction


I’ve shared on different occasions how meaningful it is for me to meet with my spiritual director, Elaine, once a month.

We sit together in her home, and there’s open space for me to talk about what’s going on in my relationship with God. Or simply what’s going on in my life in general, and we look together for God’s presence and activity in those things. 

I always leave her home feeling refreshed.

I know God is in that place, present between the two of us. 

A lot of that has to do with my knowing Elaine is attuned to God as she listens to me. She’s listening to me, but she’s also listening to the Holy Spirit. And in her responses to me, she reflects that prayerful posture — sometimes through asking just the right question, sometimes through pointing out something I hadn’t noticed, sometimes by remembering the landscape she knows of my story and how it might speak to what’s currently going on.

As a spiritual director myself, I know that the full hour of time that I hold with someone in a session — or even the full length of an email dialogue we might carry concerning their journey of the heart — is prayer. Whether their sharing is spoken to me or to God, all of it is prayer.

That space is sacred. We are listening and looking together for God. 

Have you ever experienced spiritual direction? Would you like to?

Into This Dark Night: My Wish for You

Shell in a boat.

It’s been a long journey for us here, learning about the dark night of the soul together. My sense is that enough has been said, at least for now, about this concept in this space. There’s plenty to ponder, for sure. And the archives are here, should you want to revisit the entries. 

But as we close out this series, I want to share my heart toward you through this. 

If you are walking in a dark night — either of the senses or the spirit — I want you to know this is real. You aren’t imagining things. You haven’t done something to upset God. God hasn’t left you. 

God is here, but in imperceptible ways. 

And what is happening here, even though you can’t see, hear, feel, or understand it, is profound and powerful.

It only requires that you wait.

The other aspect of my heart toward you here is that you would have companionship in this journey.

Companionship in the spiritual journey — having a place to talk about and discover God in the details of our lives — is always helpful. I have been meeting with a spiritual director once a month for four years, and it is one of the most beloved aspects of my life.

But in this place of the dark night, where the journey is so mysterious and dark and lonely, I would especially encourage you to seek out mature, wise, and discerning companionship.

How can you locate such a companion? 

There are a number of ways.

Call your church to learn if they provide this ministry. Call retreat centers in your area, as they often have spiritual directors available to meet with retreatants and local residents. 

Two websites — Spiritual Directors International and the Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association — provide online directories for finding a spiritual director in your area. 

And lastly, if you would like my companionship with you — whether you’re in the midst of a dark night or not — I provide spiritual companionship to individuals all over the globe. It would be an honor and privilege to provide such space and conversation for you. You are welcome to get in touch with me here

Thank you for being here in this series with me. The dark night of the soul is not an oft-talked-about subject in churches, and I so wish it was more broadly known.

Much love,


Learning Your Heart: Spiritual Direction Helps, Too

Stop and rest a while.

In this short series on “Learning Your Heart,” we’ve been talking about some of the practical ways we can learn to get in touch with the reality of our hearts, since Jesus demonstrated over and over again — as did the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament — that it is the heart God truly cares to know inside of us.

Before stepping into the final suggestion of this series — that of meeting with a spiritual director — let’s take a minute to clarify what is meant by the word “heart.” It’s a word that gets commonly thrown around, isn’t it? It can be easy for us to think the heart refers to something sentimental or overly feely inside ourselves.

But let me be clear: that’s not what Jesus meant by the word at all.

By “heart,” Jesus is referring to the absolute core of who you are.

The heart, as Jesus described it, is the place inside of us that holds what we know, feel, and believe in the deep-down places, even if those things contradict what we might say and even tell ourselves we believe, know, and feel. 

I love that our hearts are not a mystery to God. Although they may be a mystery to us, and although what we discover there may embarrass or repulse us, it never surprises or repulses God.

God is interested in our getting to know the truth inside ourselves so that we can bring that into real relationship with him. 

It’s in the truth that real relationship happens.

So, this short series has been offered as a place to start. We’ve talked about paying attention to those subtle intimations that flicker into our awareness but rarely keep or capture our attention for different reasons. We’ve talked about collecting and reflecting on key moments in our lives that made a deep impression or formed us in some way. We’ve talked about practicing prayer of the heart. We’ve even talked about therapy

Today, to close out the series, I want to offer one more suggestion that can help you attend to the landscape of your heart, become aware of what’s really there, and bring that into relationship with God.

This suggestion is spiritual direction

You may have heard of spiritual direction before and wondered what it is. Is it mentoring? Counseling? Some strange way of submitting yourself to an authority who tells you what to do in your spiritual life? 

It’s actually none of those things.

Spiritual direction, plain and simple, creates a space for you to attend to your relationship with God.

It offers space to reflect on how God has been present to you in your life, or perhaps to consider ways God has not been present in the ways you had hoped. It creates a place to notice and talk to God about these things. And a spiritual director is someone who provides a listening, discerning, compassionate, caring presence and gives you the room to notice and connect to God in these ways. 

I can’t tell you how helpful I have found spiritual direction to be in my own life. I’ve been meeting with the same director for several years now, and I am so incredibly thankful for the room she creates for me to notice, connect with, and talk to God. Even though I have a faithful prayer life and my faith is an integrated and vibrant part of my daily life, I still meet with her once a month (and sometimes twice a month) and plan to meet with a spiritual director for the rest of my life. I have found it to be just that invaluable a part of my life.

I’d encourage you to consider spiritual direction as a regular part of your life, too. And if you are looking for a space to simply talk openly and honestly about your relationship with God or concept of God and your interior life, you are welcome to contact me here. I’d love to provide such space for you.

Are you familiar with spiritual direction? Have you ever met with a spiritual director? Do you have any questions about spiritual direction that you’d like to ask here? 

Where Are the Pieces of Light?

Sun through the branches.

This morning, as I spent time with Jesus, talking with him about you and this space and asking him what you most needed to receive today, I held out my hands before him in a cupped posture, waiting to receive whatever he placed in those cupped hands to give you, and saw several pieces of light land in my cupped and open hands. 

They looked like the gold bricks you see in cartoons, thick and solid and bigger than a candy bar, and they were made of pure light, tumbling down into my hands, one resting on top of the other. 

The question presented itself: 

Where are the pieces of light in your life right now? 

For centuries upon centuries, Christian spirituality has used the language of consolation and desolation to describe points of light and darkness in our spiritual journey with God. Consolation is that feeling of being buoyed, filled with life, and surrounded by an abiding presence of love. Desolation, on the other hand, is accompanied by feelings of abandonment, grief, and sometimes despair.

Desolation in the spiritual life is complex, I’ve found, because its source can be quite varied. Sometimes the inexplicable events of life land us inside its terrain. Sometimes the discouraging and oppressive powers at work in this world conspire to push us inside desolation’s borders. And sometimes, perhaps surprisingly, desolation comes when God makes himself absent for reasons only God may know. 

But consolation is a bit simpler.

Consolation is present wherever there’s life — wherever life and joy and peace and their enlivening currents are found.

Many spiritual directors encourage the pursuit of consolation when it’s present, believing that where life and joy are found, there God is also found, for God is the source of life and joy.

So today, as I hold these “bricks of light” in my hands for you, I ask you to consider where light is evident in your world today. 

Where do you see glimmers and pieces of light shining as you look about you and your life right now? How might you move toward that light and joy today? How might you pursue its consolation even more?

Of Stars and Wildernesses

As an intern spiritual director, I have a supervisor I visit once a month. She is there to provide support for me in my work with individuals on their spiritual journeys, and she is truly a gift from God. 

Usually during our sessions together, we talk about my growing edges as a director, the places where I stumble or falter when working with others and the places I’m finding my stride. But this particular time, we ended up just talking about me. Not me in the role of director, but me as Christianne.

I found myself telling her about my struggles through the dying process, and specifically my struggle to feel surrounded and loved by God and others. I told her I feel alone and that I wished there were more people I could look to for guidance on how to do this. I told her that I feel the need to be strong in all my respective spheres of life, and I shared examples of how that shows up in my life right now. I told her that this need to be strong and have something to offer feels particularly pronounced for me right now.

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