It’s been a tough week in the Curate’s cage. There have been endings with which to contend – congregation members and former colleagues who need prayer as they sit with the dying, a friend moving away (ironically they will be close to my ‘home’ in the Midlands). I’ve felt sad as I have encountered situations which resonate professionally and press well-worn buttons personally. These are the places where the Psalmists speak for me, where I am grateful for Thursday Morning Prayer with the lovely T-Cup cafe people, who let me lament my way through Psalm 88 (set for today) and then prayed and praised their way and mine through joyful intercession. Because there have been beginnings too, people met for the first time, and old friends encountered in new and deeper ways.
I’ve finally met with my new Spiritual Director this week. A Spiritual Director is a strange beast as far as I am concerned – a mixture of friend, headmaster and priest (noting that you don’t have to be ordained to offer Spiritual Direction). I expect to be supported, challenged and loved in approximately equal measure by a Spiritual Director – and at different times of life I need different proportions. But at its best, it’s a relationship which works both ways. Today’s meeting was tentative first steps (not so tentative actually, but I won’t bore you with detail), but as the relationship continues, and trust builds, the support, challenge and love goes both ways. A Spiritual Director moves to become a soul friend (horrid expression, but one which perhaps denotes an honest relationship encompassing discernment, criticism, encouragement and “being with”, all working both ways). Two people share their joys and sorrows, and try to find what God is up to.
This might not be the textbook notion of a Spiritual Director. But I asked if they would be consider taking the role, and I was asked what characteristics I was looking for. When I replied that I need an “evil minded cynical bastard who won’t let me hide”, the response was instant. “I’ll do it”. After all, text book notions only take us so far into real life. We are all human.