My Journey into Spiritual Direction: Steve Arnold

My Journey into Spiritual Direction

For many years I taught courses on personal and corporate strategic planning. I was called to develop servant leaders for parish ministry, and I found strategic planning a helpful tool for supporting others as they journeyed along the way. Yet, my journey into spiritual direction was anything but strategic on my part. I just sort of fell into it.

I had finished my graduate program at the University of Minnesota and found myself with the gift of time for the first time in years. I was just poking around looking at options when a friend of mine asked me to join him in the spiritual formation program at Christos Center. I really had no clue what it was, but I trusted my friend and said “sure.” I signed up, he didn’t, but I went ahead anyway. I had very little sense as to what was happening.

I entered the program and was suddenly exposed to forms of spirituality within the Christian tradition that I had never heard of at all. I was mystified by the mystics and exploring concepts that were absolutely foreign to me. I had been a rostered leader in the Lutheran Church for almost 30 years at that point and was well steeped in the Lutheran tradition, but I learned quite quickly that there was a whole world out there that I had never heard about. I can only say that the journey begun at Christos was about to open vistas that would leave me a very different person.

At Christos I heard about the importance of adopting a rule, and I really didn’t know what they meant. A former student who went to St. John’s University for graduate school introduced me to The Rule of St. Benedict. We spent time studying it together. Then I felt called to be an Oblate affiliated with St. John’s Abbey, still not completely sure what was happening. Somewhere around 2001, I began journeying with people as a spiritual companion and have loved every step of the way. The pathway keeps leading to new understandings and new experiences, to the point that I will do strategic planning only by including the words, “God willing.”  I have learned to trust in the strategic wisdom of Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (NRSV).

By walking with a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition, I began to develop a sense of listening to God in the silence. As my director encouraged me in the way of contemplative prayer, I developed a sense of God’s presence that permeated—and changed—my life.

I have now retired from my full-time ministry positions but have a strong sense of God’s Call to continue with my ministry of spiritual direction. It brings me great joy to companion people on the spiritual journey, and I find that I am personally blessed through the experience. In one of the writings of my faith tradition, the author states that God comes to us through Holy Conversation. To me, the ministry of spiritual direction allows for space to have holy conversation with pilgrims along the way as, together, we listen for the voice of God in the experiences of the day.

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