Who I’m becoming and who I am is a testimony to gracious mentors in my life along the way. Not all of them would call themselves “spiritual directors,” but they have nonetheless served me as such. So many of the good assumptions, expectations and beliefs I hold dear I was given in mentoring relationships.One mentor, Chuck, shared with me a simple truth when I was a young pastor and it stuck: “The Christian life is a growing relationship of intimacy with Jesus Christ.” This isn’t hard for most of us to understand, but I’ve found that I’m easily distracted from the power of this simple wisdom. At the center of my life and my ministry is the gracious initiative of Jesus to Whom I respond. I can tend to complicate my life. Spiritual mentors have been there to help me return to simplicity.
A second insight from Chuck that I’ve been unpacking for many years is that “Process matters.” Life and ministry is a journey. We start somewhere and we’re going somewhere. Everything is related. There is sequence and priority in this process. There is a Jesus way of living and leading, but it is about a Person and not a system or model. Following Jesus is not only about the “what” but the “how.” I easily become focused on individual events and moments and fail to see the holy connections between them over time. And the Jesus process is, as Eugene Peterson has said, “a long obedience in the same direction.” Mentors have helped me appreciate the spiritual life as a journey.
My current spiritual director, Steve, has helped me with a question he has asked at a number of different points in a few different ways: “In what way might your life situation right now be an answer to your prayer?” Am I learning to watch for the gracious generosity and initiative of God in the present moment? Am I remembering what I’ve brought to Jesus so that I might notice His kind response? Do I realize that what I have asked of Him might take quite some time to work out in my life?
What have been some of the simple gifts that spiritual mentors have given you along your journey?
How might you re-open and treasure those gifts?
Alan Fadling serves as Executive Director of The Leadership Institute in Orange, CA, training Christian leaders to integrate spiritual formation and leadership development. He serves as a frequent speaker and consultant and is the author of An Unhurried Life (IVP, 2013). He is a certified spiritual director living in Mission Viejo, California, with his wife Gem, and their three sons.