We overvalue nonessentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter or the way we look in our Facebook photos. As a result, we neglect the activities that are truly essential, like spending time with our loved ones, or nurturing our spirit, or taking care of our health."
Take a moment and think back to yesterday. As you consider how you spent your day, think about the different activities you did. How much of your day was spent on things that lined up with your deepest values? How much of your day was spent on nonessentials?
When I look back to yesterday, I see moments of nurturing things that are essential to me. I played with my kids, worshipped with my church community, and spent time in prayer with God. There are other moments when I spent lots of time on nonessentials, like browsing the internet, and worrying about something I have no control over.
We're human, with limits of time and energy. Some people live as if their time is unlimited. That is simply untrue. Our resources of time and energy are limited, so we must learn to spend them on the right things.
Jesus was a master at this. He was an essentialist, saying no to nonessentials in order to nurture the essentials. Just look at the Gospel of Mark - you'll see Jesus saying no to all sorts of good but nonessential things.
For many of us trying to make space in our daily lives to connect with God, we may discover that there are nonessentials that we need to let go of first.
We have many other activities we could say "yes" to, instead of connecting with God. These other things may be good; they may be places where we experience some level of joy or rest. But ultimately, our souls are still yearning for a direct, focused, sacred moment of engaging with God. That's how I feel after reading a good book or watching a TV show - it's nourishing on some level, yet I want and need to have that space to truly abide and dwell in God's presence.
The larger life principle is that we each have power to choose how we spend our time. If you want to have a fulfilling and thriving life, you must put the essential things first.
HOW TO SAY NO TO THE NONESSENTIALS (AND YES TO THE ESSENTIALS)
1. Examine your daily life.
Decide what activities are essential to you. Nurturing your health? Spending time with loved ones? Making time to connect with God? What things are most important to you right now, and how can you build your day around those things?
2. Block out the time and space for the essentials.
Create space for the essentials. Put those priorities in first, and allow them to take precedence over the less important things. If it helps, block out times during your day for those activities.
3. Eliminate (or limit) the nonessentials.
Instead of thinking "I can do everything," ask yourself, "What are the trade-offs I want to make?" You may need to say no to certain things. You may want to edit out or put time limits on various activities.
4. Do this process, refine, and do it again.
Living as an essentialist is not a one-and-done thing. It is a process which invites us to learn, change, and grow.
Join our community The Spiritual Journeyers on Facebook to get support in saying more "yes" to God.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these related posts:
How to Use the Wheel of Life: a Tool For Personal Development (+ free worksheet packet)
How to Create Space to Listen to the Voice of God (plus free printable prayer guides)
ACTION & PRACTICE
What do you need to say "no" to today? What things need to be removed and cleared away so that you have the ability to say "yes" to receiving all that God has for you? Consider how you can shift your day to make space for God's work in your life.
How much or little does your daily life reflect what is most essential to you? What adjustments do you want to make to create more space for what is essential? Please share in the comments.
Spiritual direction is a spiritual formation practice that you deeper in your transformation with God.
As a trained spiritual director, many people have asked me what spiritual direction is, and why it might be a good fit for them.
Previously, I shared Why I Got a Spiritual Director. Now I’ll offer you an in-depth look at what spiritual direction is, what a spiritual director does, and how to determine if spiritual direction could benefit your spiritual growth.
If you want to know more about spiritual direction, read on.
What is spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is guidance and companionship given by another person that allows you to grow in your spiritual journey and relationship with God.
It creates a safe place for you to explore your relationship with God, become more aware of God’s presence and work in your life, and make sense of your faith journey.
The purpose of spiritual direction is to grow in intimacy with God, become a more spiritually formed person, and live a meaningful life. In essence, its primary purpose is to guide you into becoming more fully who you are meant to be in relationship with God.
What does a spiritual director do?
No one needs to journey alone. A spiritual director is a trained listener who will accompany you as you share about your spiritual journey. A spiritual director’s primary intent is to guide you into encounters with God, and to help you pay attention to God’s activity in your life.
A spiritual director serves as a guide, support, and encourager. Through prayer, conversation, listening, asking questions, and letting the Spirit give direction, the spiritual director will help you interpret your experiences and respond to God's presence and voice. He or she will listen and create a safe place to explore your relationship with God and unearth your deepest desires. There is no set agenda, and you are free to consider whatever aspect of your spiritual journey you wish.
Who is spiritual direction meant for?
Spiritual direction is available for anyone who is seeking to encounter God and go deeper in their spiritual journey. In spiritual direction, you will have a safe and open environment to explore your relationship with God.
How could spiritual direction benefit you?
Whether you seek a spiritual director during a specific season of life, or engage with one as a part of your regular spiritual practices, spiritual direction is beneficial in many ways. Oftentimes, people will build a long term relationship with their spiritual director, meeting with them monthly.
Here are a few reasons you may want to meet with a spiritual director:
How is spiritual direction different from counseling or therapy?
Spiritual direction is not therapy or counseling. Spiritual direction differs from counseling ministries primarily in its focus: the intention of spiritual direction is not to help solve a problem, but rather to look for God's activity within any problems and within the rest of your life experiences. This perspective invites you into deeper relationship with God in the midst of whatever you are experiencing.
How does spiritual direction differ from other spiritual relationships?
Spiritual direction is also not mentoring or discipling in that these relationships usually focus more on moral, educational and vocational guidance in a particular faith tradition. Although there will be dimensions of spiritual direction in these relationships, a true spiritual director is someone who can listen and provide spiritual guidance beyond any personal need to defend or uphold any particular tradition or religious institution. It is also not the same thing as spiritual friendship in that spiritual friendship is usually a peer relationship that includes some level of mutuality. Spiritual direction, on the other hand, is "one-way" in that the director is there solely to attend to the directee and does not look to that relationship in order to have any of their personal needs met.
What people say about their spiritual direction experience
Here are some ways people describe their experience in spiritual direction:
“I was at some major personal cross-roads in my life, and spiritual direction helped me hear from God in the midst of making those decisions. It helped me to listen to my own desires, as well as God's whispers of love and blessing. God gave me a bigger view of what life with him can be like, and cultivated more grace in me for myself and for others. I experienced more of God's love and acceptance."
"Meeting with a spiritual director gave me a renewed sense of God's presence in my life. Whatever seemed murky or frustrating was replaced with a total sense of peace. During one spiritual direction session, my spiritual director and I prayed together. In that prayer time, I was overcome with relief, and knew that God was releasing me from having to do and be anything beyond what I could manage."
“My spiritual director helped me through a season of waiting on God. Through spiritual direction, I learned how to ground my identity in God, connect with him, and make my spirituality my own. I am so much more secure in who I am, and more aware of God's voice speaking to me."
How to find a spiritual director
There are several ways to find a spiritual director. Here are a few places to start your search:
What to look for in a spiritual director
Every spiritual director has his or her own unique experience and style. It is up to you to choose a spiritual director who has the training, formation and experience that suits your needs. You may want to set up an initial appointment with a potential spiritual director to explore whether it is a good fit. It will help to ask questions about the spiritual director’s experience, expectations of the spiritual director and directee relationship and roles, whether there is a fee, and any other expectations.
An effective spiritual director is someone who is:
What to expect in a session with a spiritual director
Ready to go deeper in your spiritual journey?
Now that you know more about spiritual direction, consider that it might be a great next step for you in your own spiritual journey. If you want to learn more about how I can help you as a spiritual director, check out my services.
You may also like my post Why I Got a Spiritual Director.
For further reading: Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction by David G. Benner
Do you have experiences with spiritual direction? Or questions for me about spiritual direction that I didn’t cover? Please share in the comments.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
Our spiritual journey sometimes involves walking through times of uncertainty. We have moments or long stretches of sitting in more questions than answers. How do we encounter God in those times?
My Family’s Unfolding Story
For the last few years, our family has been very much in a season of uncertainty.
It began with an invitation from God. “I’m inviting you to move to a new place. I’ll show you why when you get there.”
God didn’t give us much else, other than a sense that it really was him saying this. We clung to that reality as we uprooted from the city we had called home for 15 years. We said goodbye to a beloved community of friends, an established ministry, and a sense of being known. We did it out of a deep value of building our lives on listening to God and obeying.
So now we’re here in the new place, like Dorothy Gale swept away by a tornado to the Land of Oz. We are still in the middle of the unfolding story, asking questions like, “Where are we headed? What is the next step?” We have a lot of open questions with not many answers, and things feel very uncertain.
In this season, I believe God is teaching us how to walk with him in the mystery, uncertainty, and questions. Here are a few lessons our family has learned along the way. If you find yourself in a season of uncertainty, maybe this will speak into your life as well.
Remember God’s past work.
When life feels uncertain, we might be inclined to begin thinking God is nowhere to be found. We panic, we get overwhelmed.
But think back to the past, and recall the ways God has provided, intervened, and spoken. How have you experienced his goodness? How has he been generous to you?
Remember and celebrate those things. Let that reality shape your outlook of the present moment.
Be honest with God about your feelings and questions.
God invites us into relationship with him. And real relationship is built on authenticity and transparency. Whatever your questions, concerns, and feelings, bring those to God.
Some of my most authentic moments with God have been when I allow myself to share my innermost pain or anger. This act takes courage for me. But when I am completely honest with God, that gives way to deeper intimacy with him.
Create space to listen.
In our uncertainty, there is a divine invitation to listen to God. Make intentional space to listen to God.
This past year, my husband and I scheduled weekly times to pray together. Our prayer was simple: “God, we want to listen to you. What do you want to tell us?”
As we made space to listen, God spoke to us. He gave us encouragement to keep going. He revealed how he was in the middle of confusing circumstances. He spoke words that helped clarify decisions. When we listen and ask, God loves to show up.
Let go of your safety nets.
In times of uncertainty, I am very tempted to grasp for anything that might offer a sense of security. I gravitate toward spending lots of energy on things that make me feel like I’m in control. I get more concerned about getting our finances in order.
It is in this place that God whispers to me, “Come to me. Let go of the lesser things. I am the one who will fulfill your soul’s longings.” That is God’s invitation for me to release the things that offer false security, and grab hold of the only thing that is truly secure - himself.
Allow the season of uncertainty be an opportunity to let go of safety nets, and rest in the security of God.
Hold onto promises.
There is a lot of uncertainty in life, but God also gives us promises to anchor us.
Some promises are found in Scripture, and spoken for all of us to receive. God is our shepherd (Psalm 23). Jesus promises rest and help for the weary (Matthew 11:28-29). We can be confident in these eternal truths about God.
There are also unique promises that God speaks to people in their unique circumstances. As Steve and I have prayed and listened, God has given us several words and images regarding our future. Some of those promises have already become reality. Others are promises we’re still holding onto, waiting and trusting that if they are from God, they will come to pass.
If you are in a season of uncertainty, ask God, “What promises do you want to me receive?”
Find your traveling companions.
Community with fellow travelers is so crucial to our survival, especially in times of uncertainty. We need people in our lives who give us encouragement, support, counsel, and a listening ear when we simply need to vent or cry. God gives us people to tangibly express his care for us.
Steve and I are currently leaning on the help of our community more than ever before. We need mentors, friends, and family to help us follow God in the questions and mystery. We also have experienced a deepening intimacy and partnership in our own marriage as we lean on each other.
We keep going. We keep hoping. We keep searching.
It’s okay to live in the mystery and uncertainty. That is part of life. Part of our story.
Even if we don’t know the end, God is writing our story. And he is with us every step of the way.
How have you encountered God in your own times of uncertainty and questions? Share in the comments.
Aloha! I'm Larissa, a spiritual director and Enneagram coach. I help others in their pursuit of God and their God-given calling.
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