Something Like Water
God is something like water. And apparently we humans are something like the flustered fish in this story. We’re so busy, even frantic, that we forget we’re swimming in an ocean, an ocean of God. The fish ask, “Where is the sea?” We ask, “Where is God?”
In reality, the fish are no more separated from the water in which they swim than we humans are separated from the God in which we live. We’re swimming in an ocean of God. We need look no further than where we already are. God is here. Right here. Right now. In all that surrounds us. Sometimes it takes a wise fish to remind us of that truth. And that’s where spiritual direction comes in.
Spiritual direction is something like the wise fish who opens a portal to the sea in which we already live and breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28). To all who embark upon the journey, spiritual direction gives the permission and space to slow down, to be still long enough to become aware of the Great Ocean that surrounds us. And in those precious, priceless moments of awareness, surrounded by Something Like Water, the shrill and tall voice of the self shrivels and gives way to the still and small voice of God’s Holy Spirit.
Spiritual direction, the process itself, is gentle and unhurried. But God is still God. God surprises and soothes, confounds and consoles, revealing and congealing the truth in ways only God can do. God is revealed to each soul in unique and humbling ways. In my own life, as directee and as director, God has given me the grace to witness the Spirit move at microwave speed when eyes are suddenly opened wide and feet sense the earth tremble beneath them. Most often, though, I have been graced to see God’s movement in crockpot fashion where God spends sweet time developing rich and savory flavors. Either way, each in her own way, we begin to be still and still move in the Spring of Living Water.
When I first discovered spiritual direction, I scoured the internet to find an adequate description of this “ancient practice of listening to the Holy Spirit” that was brand new to me. Although I was raised in a Christian home and my dad was a minister who preached God and Jesus, the spookiest of the Trinity — the Holy Ghost — was rarely, if ever, mentioned. I was more acquainted with Casper, the friendly ghost, than I was with the Holy Ghost who was much more mysterious and elusive. Casper at least visited me every Saturday morning in living color in the comfort of my own living room.
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to be on the receiving end and giving end of spiritual direction, I realize that trying to describe spiritual direction is like trying to describe the immortal God through mortal words. All attempts are destined to fail. Every time. Every word, every sentence, every description, every definition (including mine!) will fall short when trying to describe a God who is so attentive and loving to ourselves. Who is so alive with wonder. Who creates and recreates us in the ocean of God’s love.
In spiritual direction, one’s story, a story that might otherwise go unheard, is told and heard. And what happens in the telling and hearing is nothing short of miraculous. The story teller, already fully known by God, becomes fully known to herself and becomes free in the process. In spiritual direction, careful and compassionate listening happens between people and between people and God. A rare gift these days. It is in the truthful telling and undivided hearing of the story that buried treasures are remembered and rediscovered.
The adventure is something like deep sea diving.
You dive into something like water and in a moment of grace, you realize you’re swimming in the ocean of God.