June Mears Driedger is a spiritual director and retreat leader who serves at The Hermitage, a retreat center near Three Rivers, Michigan. She is a member of Florence Church of the Brethren Mennonite, Constantine, Michigan.
In 1992 I audited a class at Fuller Seminary as a way of exploring whether pursuing a seminary degree was my next step. I was at a crossroads, uncertain about my life’s trajectory, when I met a woman who had both a stillness and a glow about her. As we became acquainted, she shared with me about her deep love for spiritual direction, a new term to me. As she explained it — talking with someone about prayer and my relationship with God — I heard a clear inner voice say, “This is what you should do next.” I don’t normally have a clear inner voice, so I paid attention to this moment!
During the following weeks I continued asking my new friend about spiritual direction, including how I might find someone with whom I could meet for direction. My friend gave me the number of the nun overseeing spiritual formation in the Los Angeles diocese, including a list of trained spiritual directors throughout greater Los Angeles. From her list I found a Catholic lay woman with whom I met for a few years. During those years together we discerned God’s call for me to enter spiritual direction training. I tested this call with my home congregation, Pasadena Mennonite Church, which affirmed this early, inner call. It became clear that my next step was to receive the necessary training to become a spiritual director.
Although training was available through the Los Angeles Catholic diocese, my heart was hungering to deepen my connection with Mennonites, my chosen faith community. In order to follow God’s direction, I moved to Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Ind. As my training began, my inner call was further confirmed by my community of classmates and professors. I experienced a joy which further confirmed my inner and communal call.
After seminary graduation I pastored in two congregations where I made myself available for spiritual direction within and beyond the congregation. Due to my ecumenical relationships in one city, many of the individuals I met with were from a variety of Protestant denominations and some Catholics as well. At times I considered myself a “community spiritual director” for the variety of faith experiences I encountered.
As I lived out my call, I was surprised how a listening presence invites deep conversations with strangers in the craft store, the coffee shop, and the cashiers in the grocery store.
I discovered that “listening in an act of love.” Even if my listening didn’t fit into the classical definition of spiritual direction, a loving, listening presence is an act of joyful service to God and to others.
I currently live out this call at The Hermitage, a contemplative retreat center in southwest Michigan where I meet regularly with directees and with people who are on personal retreats. I continue to experience joy as I listen to people talking about prayer and reflecting on their relationship with God.