My grandfather came to live with us when I was in high school. He was my first spiritual director. When he was fifty, he started losing his sight so he began to memorize large portions of scripture so that he would have something on which to meditate. I have this vivid picture of this eighty-something year old man in his overalls with his black-framed thick glasses and large hearing aids sitting very quietly on the back porch. He spent hours thinking and praying. Often he would cry. If I went to sit beside him, he always had a question for me about the scripture passage he was pondering, “Do you think we can be perfect, Pat?”or “What has God been teaching you lately, Pat?” I loved to talk theology with him although neither of us called it that. So, my first lesson from my spiritual director was the richness of meditating upon God’s Word.
Years later my husband and I returned to the States after living in Germany for ten years. That was when I spent time with another spiritual director who taught me a very, very valuable principle of how God works in my life. I was completely disoriented with moving back to the States. All of my spiritual practices had gone dry. I was not able to understand why I felt so disconnected to God. I remember sitting on the chair in her office sharing my frustration with what was going on. She said to me, “Pat, when God wants to do a new work in our lives, often the old practices and ways of relating to him dry up. He will do a new thing. We will wait on him.” That was so freeing! I had not made God go away. That lesson has stayed with me for years as I have gone through those dry times over and over. Sometimes I have to relearn that lesson, however. Sure enough, he does do something new.
More recently I have been with a spiritual director who has listened to me share the stories of some very significant losses in my life. She listens and asks discerning questions about my journey with Christ. She sometimes makes observations which often seem to me to come from the mouth of my Father. We pray together and the Spirit prays with and through her. The ministry of presence with another is a wonderful gift. She has given me that gift.
Three spiritual directors. Three wonderful life lessons on being with Christ.
When you think of significant people connected to your spiritual life, how did they impact your life in Christ differently?
What was it in their giftedness that was perfect for you at a particular time in your life? Have you told them? How did they respond?
Pat Russell h as a M asters i n education from Purdue University, a Masters in theology from Fuller Seminary and a certificate in spiritual direction from Denver Seminary. She is currently a spiritual director, mentor and teacher. She and her husband, Larry, live in the countryside near Denver, Colorado.