By: Martha Rockenstein
Many Christian Educators and pastors move through their ministry on automatic. They keep on doing what they are doing and probably doing it adequately. However, there usually comes a time when they start running on empty, when they feel like they are losing themselves in their ministry, have lost their identity as a child of God, or are just plain stuck.
Several years ago I was at that point. I felt “stuck” and far from God. Because I was working as a Director of Christian Education, I kept telling myself that I should be more spiritual and should feel closer to God. I wanted–no I needed–something to help “unstick me.” With this in mind I made a life-altering decision and contacted a spiritual director. I was pretty sure I knew what to expect: The director would give me some spiritual practices–Lectio Divina, Examen, or meditative Scripture reading–to do. I would then practice them and talk with my director about the experience. We might even talk some about my life.
Then I started meeting with the Rev. Anita Cummings, and my expectations about what spiritual direction was were turned upside down. Sessions with Anita were a mixture of prayer, conversation, visualization, energy/chakra work, and stretching. I fell in love with this integrative approach. Anita challenged, encouraged, and guided me through the healing process–I call it “soul work.” This process is not only about healing the mind and soul but also about uncovering your “hidden treasures.” In the end it’s about uncovering your relationship with your authentic self.
As the sessions continued, I found I was drawn to the energy/chakra work and the stretching. It was during this part of my session that I experienced the most overall healing. I found myself more aware and fully present to my mind, body, and spirit. I was also drawn to the guided visualizations. These showed me a whole other avenue for connecting with God and brought me to a place where I received God’s healing and transforming love.
Throughout my experience healing came in a variety of forms–sometimes through letting go, sometimes through renewed courage, sometimes in relaxation, and sometimes through a true “aha” moment. I truly believe that if I had not begun spiritual direction with Anita, I would still be paralyzed with brokenness, fear, and shame. I would still be seeking God in all the “wrong” places, and I would be a very dark shadow of my authentic self.
Working with a spiritual director can transform you. If you find the right person–one you can truly connect with–he or she will challenge you, encourage you, walk alongside you, guide you, weep with you, laugh with you, pray with and for you, and help you find your authentic God-given self.
This personal transformation can have a huge impact on your ministry. I find the more layers of my false self I peel back and the more healing that occurs, the more effective I am in my ministry. I am able to see things I couldn’t see before. I am able to be more fully present with others. I am able to take a leap of faith and trust I will land on my feet.
I pray this is true for you as you consider working with a spiritual director.
Martha Rockenstein is a Christian Educator who has worked in multiple congregations in several states in the Upper Midwest. She is currently pursuing a new passion “to equip and come alongside people as they journey toward greater spiritual, emotional, and physical wholeness.”
Want more on spiritual direction? Read a past Advocate article from Mary T. Van Andel on Spiritual Direction for Church Workers.