The art of listening …
Someone recently asked me how my spiritual direction was going. The question stopped me in my tracks because, in fact, I had not been to see my Spiritual Director since my maternity leave started nine months ago. The excuses were always good. First it was the need to tend to my newborn in those first three months. Then it was the need to figure out how to get my footing being a mother of two and a full-time priest. Then it was the craziness of the program year starting and the holidays. But now it is Epiphany and I have run out of excuses.
For those of you unfamiliar with spiritual direction, a spiritual director is one who is trained in listening for the movement of the Spirit with their directee, helping them to discern what God is doing in their lives. Anyone can use a spiritual director, but clergy are especially encouraged to use them because the temptation for many clergy is to get so busy in the doing of ministry that we forget to stop and listen to how the Holy Spirit is moving in and through our communities and ourselves.
In some ways, our Old Testament lesson last week was a bit like the work of spiritual direction. In 1 Samuel 3.1-20, we hear the story of Samuel’s call narrative. Samuel’s story initially comes off as a bit humorous: Samuel constantly waking up Eli in the middle of the night, thinking Eli had called him and Eli shooing him back to bed. But Eli, like any good spiritual director, finally gets it the third time – he discerns that the Lord is trying to speak to Samuel. And so Eli gives Samuel the tools to respond to God. The rest is up to Samuel.
Whether we use a spiritual director or not, we all struggle to hear God. We get busy living life and forget the ways in which the Holy Spirit is constantly whispering to us, beckoning us into conversation and relationship. In living this way we miss out on the sacred moments of life, too busy to stop and listen. If you find yourself in this pattern, I wonder who might help you to connect with the holy voice of God. Perhaps it is through a formal spiritual director or perhaps it is through a mentor or friend like Eli. Perhaps it is through regular times of prayer, or perhaps you catch that quiet in your car by turning off the radio and using the moment to hear something else. If you have strayed away from listening lately, I invite you to rediscover the art of listening again. My guess is that God has been waiting for you and may have a lot to say.