Finding a spiritual director when you are deconstructing your faith
Recently I did a mini survey on my instagram stories, and asked people who were experiencing a faith shift what they most needed. The responses were overwhelmingly about the need for supportive relationships. Here’s some of their answers:
"To know I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t alone. And that it is actually normal!"
"Safe places to have conversations with people who aren’t trying to ‘fix’ my faith."
"A safe space to say out loud the things that scare me."
"Someone to tell me I would be ok."
"Trusting and secure space to explore new things, no judgement and anxiety about ‘backsliding’."
"Just the reassurance that others are travelling this way as well."
In that survey, 92% of people who responded were experiencing a faith shift (or had recognised that a shifting faith is perhaps the normal and healthy reality of spirituality!). 67% had a few key people they could talk with about their faith shift, but 19% felt completely alone.
Why you might benefit from a spiritual director during a faith shift
Spiritual direction is a sacred conversation that seeks to enable you to listen more deeply to your truest self and to the Divine Presence in your life, however you experience that.
A good spiritual director will listen to you without judging, ask questions that help you uncover the deeper movements in your own spirit, and invite you to bravely explore your own connection with God.
In a significant faith shift, suddenly everything can feel uncertain. That can feel mentally and emotionally destabilising, and it can also call into question our sense of belonging and purpose. Perhaps most importantly, it also deeply impacts our sense of connection to that Divine Presence.
While you may have life-giving and supportive friendships, a spiritual director is able to listen to you without any bias or hidden agenda. There is no one outcome that is prescribed, and there is little you can say that will shock us! Your thoughts and questions and doubts will be welcomed into the sacred space of spiritual direction without fear or anxiety on the part of your director. You’ll not be accused of heresy or backsliding!
Instead you’ll be welcomed with curiosity and delight, and a deep trust that the journey you are on will bring you home to your truest self, and the God that dwells within you.
Finding a deconstruction-friendly spiritual director
Ideally, all spiritual directors would be able to hold space for you, because despite the name, this ministry is about deep listening and accompanying rather than directing - the direction is yours to discover and own!
However, not every spiritual director will be a right fit for you. Here are a few tips for finding the right person to accompany you:
Talk to two or three different directors to get a feel for how they work and how they are different. A good spiritual director will not be threatened by this and will be happy to wait for you to talk to a few and make your decision.
Don’t rush the decision but also trust your instincts. When you’ve had the initial conversation, pay attention to how your body feels afterwards - is there tension, excitement, calm? And what feelings are arising for you that need tending?
Feel free to ask your spiritual director about their own faith journey. The spiritual direction space is about you, and the norm will likely be that your spiritual director only self-discloses occasionally when it may be fruitful or helpful in your journey. But at the start, I think it is very appropriate to ask about their journey and how that has shaped how they offer spiritual direction.
Remember that you are never tied in to one person. If it doesn’t continue to feel like a good fit, let them know what the issue is (if you can articulate it) or simply let them know you are going to look for someone else. A good spiritual director will not be offended by this, and may even be able to give you some suggestions of who to contact.
Trust the process. You may be surprised by how it feels or what comes up. Try to put aside preconceived expectations and commit to being fully present to yourself in each session. There is space here for tears, swearing and laughter, for joy, lament and curiosity.
Faith shifts and deconstruction can be confusing, painful and lonely. My deepest hope for you is that you have good companions along the path who will help you connect with your truest self and with the Divine.
Perhaps one of those companions will be your spiritual director.