Born in Africa to long-term missionaries, I was raised to serve God. Back in the States at age nine, I walked the long aisle forward to forgiveness in Jesus Christ to strains of “Just As I Am.” As a teen, I remained faithful to God by staying active in youth group, witnessing to my school friends, and carefully avoiding alcohol and sex. Unfortunately, I also became judgmental of those who did not.
However, by the end of college, loneliness, failures, and the stresses of young marriage had convinced me to the core that I was no better than anyone else. I wanted more of God in my life, and I wanted to live more of my life for God.
My husband and I became steadfastly committed to a local church, to our four daughters, and to each other. Both physicians, we served God in the United States, Zambia, and Honduras. Through thick and thin, hardship and joy, premie nursery, broken bones, blood clots, grief, and busy middle-class American lives, we read our Bibles, attended prayer and sharing groups, and taught Sunday school and youth group.
Generally, I was joyful and grateful for family, church, and friends, for gradual growth in the Lord, for God meeting all my needs in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19). But sometimes I still wondered, “Am I obeying the first and greatest commandment as God intended? Do I really love God? Do I really love others? And exactly how should I be serving Him?”
When our youngest daughter left home for college, I found myself unexpectedly lost. For twenty-five years, I had worked very part-time as a doctor and very full-time as a mom. Now I was forced to “retire” from parenting–the job I had loved and the one in which I was fully vested. In the ensuing months I quizzed God, “Who am I now? What next? What more?”
Eventually, though unsure of the end goal, I enrolled as a Biblical Studies major at nearby Evangelical Theological Seminary. Of one thing I was sure: ministry, which I thought meant being a pastor, was not my goal. The life of preaching every Sunday and tending a flock of unruly congregants was not my calling. However, gradually, from interacting with my professors and fellow students, I came to understand that ministry was much more than pastoring. My professors ministered to us students in the midst of teaching; and fellow students were already ministering— as chaplains, InterVarsity staff, social workers and counselors.
In many ways, I discovered I also had been ministering all along—to our daughters, the youth group, our church body, my husband, our houseguests, my patients, my friends, and even to God. After all, ministry is service and servanthood. Furthermore, all work done “as for the Lord and not for men…is serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23-24). Yet God had another, quite unexpected ministry ahead for me—spiritual direction.
I had heard of spiritual direction but felt hesitant and even leery of this unfamiliar practice. Then I met the spiritual formation professors at seminary and got a glimpse of how God was using spiritual direction to infuse new life and facilitate spiritual growth in His beloved children. Two years of spiritual direction training at Kairos School of Spiritual Formation combined with continued theological training at Evangelical Seminary to form me into a new kind of minister–a spiritual director.
As a spiritual director, I teach people how to pray, how to hear and see God’s activity in their lives, how to interact with God’s Word with both heart and mind, and how to love God and others by intimately knowing Him and His love for them.
Through meeting regularly with my own spiritual director, I am slowly learning to live more consciously in the presence of our triune God so that my hands and my voice become more completely God’s. I am slowly learning to surrender more courageously to God’s love and to love God back more fully. God is answering some of my questions, but I am slowly learning to live in the dark, trusting God with what He does not answer. And I am slowly learning to seek and know God, not just what God gives and does.
Thanks be to God that I am learning (however slowly) through the gift of spiritual direction!