Encourage and Inspire
There are two words I enjoy thinking about when it comes to spiritual companioning: “inspire” and “encourage.” One often leads to the other. Both deepen our experience of Presence.
Inspire comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning to breathe or blow into. For me, this implies opening ourselves to the Divine One via the breath—the sacred breath—so that we may receive the gifts of Spirit to do what we need to do in life. Hopefully, spiritual direction allows this to happen.
When we sit in the silence, prayerfully, opening ourselves to what Spirit may have in mind for us, we gain insight and encouragement for our journey. When we do this in a temenos space with another, the possibilities double. There are gifts for both listeners. Each of us is inspired to do what is good, right, and true—in the moment and in the future.
As I have sat in this way with others, I am humbled by what comes forth when we bring ourselves to this place of receptivity. As I write this, I am thinking of Jane, who recently poured her heart out about the difficulties she had with her husband. She simply could not see God’s handiwork within the tensions of this relationship. Yet, she loved her husband dearly.
“He doesn’t do anything but sit on the couch,” Jane lamented, when she would rather prepare a meal together, or go for an after dinner walk in the neighborhood. We talked about our human tendency to hold onto these disappointments; to stack them up to make a case against someone. In time, stacked disappointments erode the love and compassion we have for one another.
Jane saw her actions more clearly and acknowledged how consistently finding fault was diminishing her love for her husband. I encouraged her to shift her attention to consider what James was doing right. What good, kind things did he do for her, their home, or to ensure a good quality of life for them both?
We sat in silence and breathed together. Each of us trusted that Spirit would move through us to bring clarity to the situation. We believed we would be inspired about how to proceed. We also know that no matter what was revealed in the quiet, we would be encouraged to take steps toward repair and healing, toward love.
In silence, I reflected a bit on my own stack of disappointments, for this is how good spiritual companioning works. When we sit together, we are invited to be present to two—she and me. Even in the space of a few seconds, I can make a mental note to reflect on this myself ... later.
Jane was encouraged by our time together, as well as by Spirit who, in the silence of her own heart, invited her to look more deeply with transparency to what was there, and to attend to that. I was encouraged by Jane’s courage, for ultimately, that is what the root of the word “encourage” implies: to act with courage and heart.
After a session like this one with Jane, I acknowledged the fruits of the Spirit that each of us received, delivered in the way we each needed to hear it. We have been both inspired and encouraged. I am thankful for this charism of spiritual direction because it offers a treasure trove of surprise-filled inspiration and emboldening encouragement when and how we least expect it. How blessed are we in that!
Janice Lynne Lundy is a spiritual director and mentor with an inter-spiritual focus, an educator, and the author of seven spiritual growth books including, Portable Peace: A Guided Journey. She is founder and host of “The Kindest Thing.” She serves as adjunct staff at Dominican Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, leading women’s contemplative programming and retreats, offering spiritual direction, and mentoring spiritual directors in training. Jan is currently completing her DMin in spiritual direction.