One of the spiritual directors whose writings have helped me is Reginald Somerset Ward, an Anglican spiritual director who died when I was one. Here he describes the task of spiritual direction, which he here calls “the physician of souls.” (The language is male as this was written nearly 60 years ago. FYI).
“The task of the physician of souls is twofold. His first duty is that of diagnosis, by which he must endeavour to discover the poison which is doing most to hinder the soul’s contact with God and the shaping of his life to carry out the purpose of God. His second duty is to find out how the contact with God through prayer, which is a source of health and strength in the spiritual life of the individual, can be increased and trained.” (Ward, Reginald Somerset. A Guide for Spiritual Directors. London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd, 1957, p. 9-10.)
Now you don’t have to be a formal spiritual director to benefit from this ministry insight. Pastors and spiritual friends can take counsel from Ward. I think that those who are vocational church leaders, for example, would do well to increase the amount of soul care they do and find ways to do less mere program management. Ministry is personal (person-al). The difference between personal ministry and impersonal work is significant. But whatever our ministry, paid or volunteer, small group or large organizational oversight, we would do well to focus our attention and effort on ways of personalizing what we do. Ministry is more an “us” than an “it.”
Specifically, Ward suggests that the two-fold task is 1) to discern the poison that is hindering a person from formation of the soul in God through abiding relationship, and 2) to help that person find their way to places of deeper, life-giving communion with God. It’s not unlike the task of a physician.
Think about your own life now. What do you think might be the poisonous thoughts, perspectives or habits that are hindering you and creating blockage in your trust, your sense of belovedness, your peace? How might Jesus be inviting you to freedom, to health, to wholeness in him? It would be a good place to spend a few moments in reflective prayer.