Spiritual director – probation officer

Sometimes I feel like my spiritual director is my probation officer. I have to check on with her every month to see how I’m doing. That makes it sound like I don’t know how I’m doing, or like I’m going to the doctor for a checkup. It is kind of both.

A spiritual director is kind of like a guru. Their goal is “intimacy with God”, and while that is pretty nebulous, it is a good goal. If any minister I’d ever had over me talked like she did, I’d still be in church. But sometimes it is really hard work. It is one on one, for an hour. It is really intense.

I feel awkward going. She cuts right through the muck, like a laser. She sees through my veils and obstacles that I put up, voluntarily and involuntarily.

Sometimes I hide. There are some things that I know we disagree on, like salvation. I don’t feel that Jesus came to save us. I feel that Jesus came to tell us that we aren’t broken and don’t need to be saved. There is a huge difference here. I know that I differ from mainline Christianity in this. I also know that I’m in alignment with the words of Jesus in my belief. So I keep on saying it in my blog. She and I, however, we butt heads over it. She says we are broken. I say that Jesus says we are as good as we are going to be and that is good enough.

I also feel that she’s holding back in telling me things. I’m the kind of person who needs explicit instructions, and I feel that she’s the kind of person who wants me to figure it out on my own. Perhaps she feels that if she tells me something that I should be experiencing, that I’ll fake it. Kind of like how if you read about a particular disease, you might feel like you have the symptoms and you don’t. Or like if you explain something a certain way, it will frame that experience for that person. I feel she wants me to have my own experiences.

I dread going almost every month, but this month is worse. After going, I immediately want to go again. Then a month later when it is time to go, I don’t want to at all. I think I don’t know what to talk about. I think that whatever I’ve experienced isn’t enough. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it all wrong.

Am I cheating, by wanting to skip? Am I falling to the wayside, or am I on the right path?

I’d like to work on the manuscript for my book. I’d like to catch up on sleep. I’d like to paint. Wednesday mornings are nice – I don’t have to go in to work until the afternoon. If I go visit her, I lose a lot of that time. It is only once a month, though.

Sometimes rules help, sometimes they hurt. What rule am I following here? Go once a month regardless? Do it automatically? Or feel it out? Discipline is the root of “disciple” after all.

Part of it is realizing that she works for me, not the other way around. I pay her for her services. It is like using a personal trainer, but for your soul. It is really weird and really awesome.

This month I decided to cancel. And I’m glad I did. I feel that if it is a choice, it is easier. God loves a cheerful giver, after all. If I go because I feel I have to go, then I’m missing the point. But then I also know that if I slack off too much I’ll get out of line/habit/practice. Order is important to me.

It is all a balancing act. Order / freedom. I chose order, of my free will. But too much order starts to feel stifling.

Poem – cut loose

This is a day of culling.
This is a day of cutting loose
and letting go.

No longer time to sow
or reap.

There is no harvest here.
Not yet.

This is a time to prune,
to trim,
to weed.

But not gently.

This is a time of slash and burn,
of cut and run.

This is a time of throwing off the rope
and sailing away.
No map, no rudder, no charts.

Just go.

Like a laser
Like a diamond
Like a scalpel

Cut loose.

No time for maybe
or might have been.

Cut loose.

This is the day not for new beginnings
or happy endings
but something in the middle.

We aren’t used to middles.
We are uncomfortable with
not being
or there.

But that is where we are.
The grey time
the afternoon place
the doldrums,

Better accept it.
The sooner the better.

Cut bait now
with a sharp knife and paddle on over
to another spot
that line is holding you down.

No matter if the biggest fish
you ever saw is about to grab hold.
No matter.

He hasn’t yet
and if he does now
he’ll just pull you under
or drag you along
to your death.

Cut loose
and live.

I’m not going to rescue you.

I have this situation going on. I’ve come up with a way to explain it. It is all a metaphor, but it works.

Say I have a friend who is terrible at driving on the freeway. She gets all flustered and upset with all the racing traffic. She needs to go downtown, so I tell her the best route to take that doesn’t use the freeway. I’ve taken that way myself many times. I give her my GPS with the route programmed in. I give her a map.

And she takes the freeway anyway. Then she gets frustrated and upset. Then she freaks out and just stops her car on the side of the road on a freeway overpass. Then she expects me to come rescue her. She expects me to leave work and drive to where she is and take care of her.

She’s created the problem. She had a perfectly acceptable way to get where she needed to go and refused to use it. She doesn’t try to take care of the problem herself. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a surprise. It was the logical result of the situation, because that is what always happens when she drives on the freeway.

Even though I did my best to prevent the problem that she is experiencing, she’s created the problem by ignoring me. And now she wants me to rescue her.

And I refuse.

And I’m seen as the bad guy.

She’s not acting like an adult. She’s not acting in a responsible manner.

If she did her own thing and got into trouble, but rescued herself, then it would be fine.

But that isn’t the situation. My plan is always to prevent the problem before it is a problem. And if I rescue someone when they ignored me to start off with, I’m enabling their bad decision making.

If someone keeps doing this, then I stop talking to them at all. They want me to help them, but only after they’ve made the situation infinitely and unreasonably worse.

I have no problem with helping people who try their best. I have a big problem with helping people who cause their own problems again and again. I feel that I’m aiding and abetting if I help someone who refuses to take care of herself.

If I wanted dependents, I would have had children.

The end of suffering.

1) Acknowledge the pain.

2) If you can do something about it, do it.

3) If you can’t, then accept it by giving thanks for it.

Further on this –
1) Acknowledge the pain.
It does us no good to ignore pain. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Ignoring pain doesn’t fix it. It prolongs it. Pain, when ignored, will often come out in very unhelpful ways. This is the source of self-abuse and addictions. Drinking, drug use, overeating, and other addictive behaviors are maladaptive techniques to deal with pain. They are a response to pain. They are a symptom. Any addiction is a repetitive, albeit misdirected, attempt to cure a problem. If you address the root cause of the problem, then the addiction will go away. Addictions just delay the cure.

Pain can be in many forms. Pain doesn’t have to be physical. Pain can result any time your needs are not being met. Grief is a form of pain. Any loss can cause pain. Not being respected, heard, or understood can cause pain.

2) If you can do something about it, do it.
Address the pain head on and see what the source of it is. Dig down to the root of it. Then dig down further. Often our first answer to “what is wrong” is just a surface answer. Keep going deeper. How do you feel? Who made you feel that way the first time? Is it the situation, or your reaction to it that is the cause of the pain?

Is there something you can add or subtract from your life to change the situation? Even if it will take a long time to get there, just getting started is good. Every step towards your goal is one step further away from your problem. Are you frustrated with your job? Look at transferring. Start taking classes. Do you feel that your needs aren’t being met? Is part of the problem that you aren’t telling people what your needs are? Is part of the problem that you don’t know yourself?

A lot of pain comes from settling for it. We are trained to be quiet with our suffering. This isn’t healthy. We are taught to say “I can’t do that” or “Nobody will listen to me”. Ignore those voices. They aren’t yours. They are the voices of a sick society that wants people to stay miserable. Get started, one foot in front of the other. Every step towards your goal is a step away from the problem. It is hard at first. It gets easier, but you have to keep doing it. Nobody is going to do this work for you.

3) If you can’t, then accept it by giving thanks for it.
Just like Jonah in the whale, giving thanks to God for your problems can be very healing. He gave thanks for God while in the middle of his problem. He didn’t say that he’d give thanks once he was released. He gave thanks right there and then. He was released just after that.

Sometimes the painful situation is temporary, but we just can’t see the end. Sometimes it is meant to slow us down long enough to see things from a different perspective. Giving thanks is what makes us human.