A spiritual direction session is to be graced with a hospitable freedom to share whatever is on one’s heart or mind. When a trusting relationship between director and directee is established, there may come a time when a directee needs to confess a sin or sinful pattern in their life. In confession, we are invited to “agree with God” about the truth of our lives in light of the truth of his gospel… both of which will always set us free.
In the parable of the lost son, we discover the prodigal who had squandered his inheritance on riotous living, finally “coming to his senses” (Luke 15:17). He literally comes to the end of himself and realizes it’s far better to be back in the household of his Father than to be eating among the pigs. He was fully prepared to confess his foolishness, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Instead, he’s welcomed home by the extravagance of the Father’s compassionate love and offered the full embrace of forgiveness, a generous kiss of grace, a luxurious robe of righteousness for his back, a beautiful ring of recommitment for his finger, newly fashioned sandals for his redirected feet, and a grand celebration is thrown in his behalf.
What Happens In Spiritual Direction?
“Listening for the Spirit in an atmosphere of loving attentiveness has helped tune my ears and heart to hear God speak.” quoted by a directee to David Deters (Selah: 2014-2016), Grand Rapids, MI
Out of his self-induced demise, which resulted from his multiple foolish choices, the prodigal realizes the error of his ways and returns home to the loving heart of God. Without need for a “Saturday night bath” to prepare to be in the Father’s presence, the Father instead clothes him in his “Sunday best” as one who is restored to his original state of blessedness. The welcome home is liberating and life-transforming.
The self-created storms of our lives wreak havoc on the soul. Whether known to us as personal failure, relational betrayal, spiritual bankruptcy, compulsive addiction, or any number of poor choices, these storms systematically close off the soul. Or, better yet, these same storms can become fruitful for the soul, unmasking the false self and opening up the soul to godly redemption, restoration, regeneration, and ultimately spiritual renewal.
What Happens In Spiritual Direction?
As I listen, I realize my directee is on her holy ground. My joy over watching God speak to her is my holy ground. Then I realize, “We are touching God!”… and that is true Holy Ground! Kathy Koy (Selah: 2012-2014), Pagosa Springs, CO
Spiritual direction sessions provide an opportunity for a directee to share with a trusted spiritual friend the vivid details of their particular storm. When an invitation to confess the pain associated with the storm is included in the session, transformational freedom for the soul emerges from the inside out.
There are varieties of methods available for the spiritual director to utilize in these sessions. Regardless of approach, the following should exist:
- Prayerful silence for both parties to reflect and prepare for the confession
- Hospitable presence to provide safe confidentiality
- Gracious invitation to share the details of one’s story, storm or sin
- Merciful holding of the sharing without shame or condemnation
- Additional silence and prayer for forgiveness and release
- Loving confirmation of God’s full pardon and forgetfulness
- Gentle reminder of Satan the accuser’s desire to erase the grace of God
- Loving blessing and sending back into the world in freedom and joy
Of all the marvelous ways spiritual direction sessions provide space for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully and restoratively, confession remains one of the most fruitful for the soul. The best gift of all is the Christ-centered forgiveness and restoration received in the heart of the confessor… offered freely and generously from the Father himself.
Stephen A. Macchia, D.Min., is the Founder and President of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (www.LeadershipTransformations.org); Director of the Pierce Center, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; Author of several books, including Crafting A Rule of Life (IVP) and Becoming A Healthy Church (Baker) and lives in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Steve and his wife, Ruth, have two children, Nathan and Rebekah, and make their home in Lexington, MA.