How is it with your soul?
This is a question I (Rachel) haven’t always known how to answer, especially in seasons of chaos. Several years ago, I found myself in such a season. I was on full-time staff with Young Life in Colorado, and our area was going through yet another transition. We had just taken on the leadership of another Young Life area in our city. Not only had this doubled our responsibilities, but we had also hired a new staff associate who was fresh out of college, and our area director was stepping out of ministry. We found ourselves without a leader, and with a dozen club ministries to oversee, we needed someone to serve as an interim point person.
At twenty-five years old, I was asked to step in and give leadership to the area, and I was terrified. I was already a reluctant Young Life-staffer, wondering how on earth God would call an introverted, somewhat quirky young woman into the high-energy world of Young Life ministry. I had always felt out of place, and in this season, I felt particularly so. I was overwhelmed, swirling in a sea of doubt, and anxiously grasping for hope that God would lead me through without too many scrapes and bruises. I had the best possible coworkers and volunteers to work with, but I found myself wrestling with a multitude of new anxieties.
But even in seasons of insecurity and chaos, God proves Himself faithful and gracious. A person in Young Life’s senior leadership generously offered to pay for me to see a spiritual director, so that I could tend to my own soul and remain rooted in Jesus. I had never heard of spiritual direction, but anything that would allow me to process my own faith sounded like just what I needed. I was all in.
Over the course of a year and a half, spiritual direction became a conduit for naming and releasing fears, growing in self-awareness, and saying yes to God’s invitation into deeper intimacy with Him. I learned to take risks, including facing my own failures in ministry and not allowing those failures—and even fear of failure itself—to dictate my choices. I allowed myself to ask questions I’d been afraid to ask and leave them before the Father, even if I didn’t receive clear answers.
Spiritual direction also became a catalyst for pushing me to finish my Masters degree through Fuller Theological Seminary (which is where I ended up meeting Bryan!). At Fuller, several of my professors were also trained as spiritual directors, and I received an education that blended theology with spiritual formation. As I studied systematic theology and learned biblical Greek and Hebrew, I also read Theresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, and Dallas Willard. I learned that knowing about God and knowing Him are not one in the same, nor are they mutually exclusive.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that spiritual direction was not only a beautiful and transformative spiritual practice in my own life, but may actually be the kind of ministry the Holy Spirit was calling me into. After Bryan and I got married, I transitioned off of Young Life staff and served in HR at a missions organization, and I researched spiritual direction training programs in the area. At the same time, Bryan was offered a job at a church in Northern California. We packed up our lives, said goodbye to our family and community, and were sent out. Once we arrived in California, we found Sustainable Faith, the Vineyard’s two-year spiritual direction training program.
With the support of our new church, both Bryan and I were able to complete Sustainable Faith together, and let me tell you, this was the sweetest gift from the Father. Transitioning to life in a new place and learning how to do pastoral ministry in a new community required a lot of energy in every facet of life — emotional spiritual, mental, physical, relational — and we needed something that was going to fill and refresh our souls. We cried, laughed, learned, and encountered Jesus together through the school of spiritual direction, and the idea for CURATE was birthed out of this experience. I know that not everyone gets the opportunity to enter a season of spiritual growth and learning alongside their spouse. The Lord is so good to us. I’ll always be grateful to Him for these opportunities.
Now, here we are, plunging headfirst into a new season of risk: launching a ministry. In the best of ways, spiritual direction has quite literally changed the trajectory of my life. Now, when I prayerfully ask the question, "How is it with your soul?," one word comes to mind: expectant.