For more than a year, the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network has been posting brief articles about spiritual direction – testimonies that witness to the potential of spiritual direction for encouraging and deepening spiritual growth.
In addition to continuing articles about spiritual direction, the series will also include brief articles about spiritual practices that renew our faith and strengthen us for ministries of love – peacemaking, healing, compassion and service.
June Mears Driedger is a spiritual director and retreat leader in Lansing, Michigan. She is also editor of Leader magazine, published by MennoMedia.
My friend was frustrated with me:
“You are too stuck in your head!”
I was surprised by this as I am feeling-oriented and think with my heart rather than my head. Still, I was engrossed in my work, which requires a lot of detailed thinking.
I was unsettled though, since my spiritual director had made a similar observation a week earlier. When two unrelated people say nearly the same thing to me in a short period of time, I wonder:
Is God trying to say something to me?
I began to ponder both the observations and the subsequent questions.
When I met with my spiritual director next, we talked about my questions. In response, she suggested a simple prayer to shift my focus from my head to my heart. “O God – open my heart.” We sat together in silence as I began to pray this prayer and began to feel a shift in my heart.
For more than two years this was my breath prayer – breathing in, “O God,” breathing out, “Open my heart.”
I prayed this as I fell asleep, when I did chores, when I drove, when I stood in line at the supermarket.
Slowly, I began to understand my friend’s frustration with me. I began to feel my heart opening more toward others and being able to listen to them with my heart rather than my head. Importantly, I saw how my head defaulted toward judgment while my heart moved toward compassion. I slowly became more tenderhearted toward those who can annoy me rather than closing my heart from them.
During this time I shared my experiences with my spiritual director, who listened intently and wholeheartedly to me. She encouraged me to continue praying, “O God, open my heart,” as God continued to open my heart.
Recently, my mother left a phone message asking me to call her back. I was getting ready for bed after a full day of conference calls, and I was tired. “I’ll call her tomorrow,” I said to my spouse.
But something stirred in me — the Spirit’s nudging perhaps?
And I prayed, “Open my heart, God.” I called my mom back and learned that her dear friend had died. As I listened to her, I placed my hand over my heart and silently breathed, “Thank you, God. Thank you for opening my heart.”