At This Table

“I’ll start,” says one spiritual director after we blessed the lunches we brought. One by one, we go around the table, sharing what’s been significant to us in the past month.

One speaks of disappointment, another rages at loss, a third savours a gift. At this table, we’re not looking for approval or even understanding; we’re not fearing rejection or judgment. At this table we’re simply listened to and loved.

After lunch we gather in the living room. Alfred begins a short time of reflection with a quote from Wendell Berry.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Silence invites us to let the words release the tension in our souls: our work is not to know, fix or advise. It’s okay to be baffled.

After a quiet “Amen,”  the facilitator for that day divides us into two groups. My group of three returns to the table where we had lunch. It’s my turn to share about an experience of offering spiritual direction; it’s their turn to be baffled and, to quote Douglas Steere, “listen my soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery.”

Being supervised by one’s peers takes a bit of courage. Can we trust them with our soul’s disclosure?

It helps that we regularly remind each other that our focus is not on improving skills or figuring out how to help our directees. Our intent is to hear the fear, longing or desire a direction session stirred up in the supervisee’s soul and bring it into the light of God’s love.

Alfred sits on my left, Mary on my right, like a Rublev icon. Then, protecting the privacy of my directee and maintaining confidentiality, I tell them about the trepidation and restlessness I experienced in a recent session. Our joint listening leads me to notice and make space for my feelings and recall other times I’ve felt this way. Eventually, their gentle questions uncover a crippling fear. Now that it’s on the table, a strange thing happens.

Neither Alfred nor Mary are under its spell. God isn’t either.

I try on their freedom. Instead of trepidation, I’m excited about what God is doing in my directee’s life and in mine.

I think back to the Wendell Berry quote Alfred brought. What if he or Mary had known which way to go and given me advice? They would laugh at the thought of it–not that they wouldn’t have been tempted to save me, but they really didn’t know what to do. What a wonderful gift to bring to the table.

He brought me to his banqueting table,
his banner over me is love.
–a Sunday School song based on Song of Solomon 2:4

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

My brother Ron (second from the right) and his wife, Deb, along with others from their church, served an Iftar meal to their Muslim neighbours during Ramadan last month. Pastor Joel Bergeland wrote about it on Mount Olivet’s blog. He writes, “At every turn of the night, we were greeted and recognized. It was difficult for me to cross the dining hall without being stopped multiple times by people wanting to shake my hand and let us know how grateful they were for our presence with them: ‘No one has done this before–what an act of goodwill.’ , ‘You give me hope that we can have a future filled with peace.’ . . .
‘This is God’s house, and that means everyone is welcome here. I hope you, too, feel welcome.’ I did. And judging by the laughter and conversations I saw the other Mount Olivet folks engaged in, they did, too.” God’s banner over us is love!

What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the earth?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Icon of the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev (1360-1430) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Wendell Berry quote from “The Real Work” by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words. © 1983.
Quote from Douglas Steere, “To listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being performs for another.” was in On Listening to Another.
Photo from Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth, Minnesota, used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2017.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2017.

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Reflections, Spiritual Direction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to At This Table

  1. Dave Small says:

    Great post Esther! The Wendell Berry quotation is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

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