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  • Writer's pictureMennonite Church USA

Seeking God’s guidance through spiritual direction

Originally posted at:

“Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,

for in you I put my trust.

Teach me the way I should go,

for to you I lift up my soul.” — Psalm 143:8 (NRSV)

A little more than a year ago, my family and I made a move from the city where we lived, worked and had raised our son for many years back to the small urban/rural area where I’d grown up. There were many reasons for our move, and it was a good move all in all. I did much of the footwork to get us across state lines intact, and my spouse was lucky enough to find a good job to support us as we transitioned.

After the dust settled, I began to wonder what work I was called to in this new place. I started down one road, then, suddenly, found myself swerving onto another road. I found myself caught in the tension between structure, money, and security, and an inner voice calling me to take a risk and move toward something new. I became caught in a personal vortex that whirled me time and again past all the options and kept me spinning in confusion and anxiety.

I shared my thoughts and feelings with my spouse and a friend or two, but I was unable to find the trailhead for a path that seemed solid. Finally, I took my questions and anxieties into a session with my spiritual director. I was a bit hesitant, unsure about facing this head on.

Yet I knew that talking deeply and honestly about all of it was the best hope I had for finding a clearer direction.

After listening to my story, my spiritual director asked me what it was right now that really attracted my attention. What did I love to spend my time on? That list was easy to come up with — taking meals to the local hospice house, writing, gardening, caring for my family, and above all, talking deeply to others about life and faith. He suggested I continue to focus my attention on the things I really love and to listen carefully to what came up when I was “going deeper,” such as during prayer or meditation, during deep breathing, and during walks in nature. He told me that the things that we love with the deepest parts of ourselves are the things through which God speaks to us. He gave me a place to set my feet down on solid ground, a direction to focus my attention and the challenge to risk following what I’d been given to love rather than what the culture teaches is most important. His challenge to me was this: “You need to stop spinning on the surface and look deeper.”

As we spoke, I could receive his wisdom, because it resonated with me. It made sense. It was simple, though not easy. Despite faithfulness, we can quickly be blown to and fro by cultural conditioning. It takes attention, commitment and a solid network of support to keep us on the path toward the deeper movements God is making known in our lives.

I have used spiritual direction as one discipline in my faith life for years. And now, after years of work as a hospital chaplain and hospice grief counselor and the completion of a spiritual direction training program, I feel called to provide spiritual direction for others. The beauty of hard moments, such as I recently experienced, is that, with reflection and support, struggles can have purpose, spark learning and growth, and ripple out as compassion and newly won wisdom into the broader world around us.

If you have questions about your faith, life, call, or place in this world, consider tapping into spiritual direction as a place to pay attention to and explore God’s movements in your life.

Learn more about the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network at

You can find links to the Spiritual Directors Network website and other congregational and ministerial resources on MC USA’s Church Vitality webpage:

Ruth Johnston

Spiritual Director


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