Our little group of pilgrims was standing on the mainland of England, peering out across the bay to Lindisfarne, Holy Island. Stuck in the muddied bay were a dozen tall poles. Our guide told us those were ‘way markers’ placed centuries ago by previous pilgrims; they mark the safe passage toward the island. To me they seemed erratically placed.
Our guide said, “Those saints risked their lives to find the correct route in placing each marker. Indeed they are not straight, no path is. Many who had gone before us lost their lives in the deep mud, they presumed they could make the journey on their own, they knew an easier way.” He reminded me we all need help on our pilgrimage. This iconic lesson has been seared in me ever since.
To come alongside and help; this is the very word picture describing the Holy Spirit, the Parakléte. The Spirit uses the love and compassion of others on our journey to stand in a paraklétic posture. The Apostle Paul unpacks this wisdom by advising us to carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). The image of that muddy harbor is evoked reading this word ‘burden.’ The original language portrays an image of someone sinking in the mud due to a heavy weight. We all have our burden or heavy weights; Jesus calls it the log in our own eye. We need help from one in that paraklétic posture.
Throughout church history the individual frequently described in this loving servant posture is a spiritual director. The term is a bit of a misnomer because in the classic sense there is little ‘direction’ as we understand it. We crave someone to be in that prophetic place to tell us what to do, what is around the bend. But no path is straight. A spiritual director, in the paraklétic posture, does two things.
First they listen. They listen to the unfolding of our pilgrimage. They listen knowing this conversation is a sacred moment which God’s Spirit dislodges a bit of the log jam in another’s soul. This dislodging occurs when we have courage to tell another our story. Listening to another is that moment in which love begins.
Secondly, they speak back their observation of how God is moving the log. They help point out what they believe Jesus is doing; exactly the role of The Parakléte, always pointing toward Jesus. Sometimes the words are affirmations of what the pilgrim already senses, or, sometimes it is helping them with new eyes to reinterpret what they are experiencing.
The service of spiritual direction is time intensive; real love usually is. It occurs in the one-on-one. My hope is you will find such a fellow pilgrim for your journey in your faith community, and that you would choose to love others in a paraklétic posture. We at The Leadership Institute highly value this tradition of spiritual direction. If we can be of service to you in helping you find a spiritual director in your area or in the nuances of training in this art, let us know.