Why I Became a Spiritual Director

When people ask me this question, I get a little nervous. I worry that my answer may come across, well, as too religious. And not helpful. But if you’re curious enough to read on, here it goes:

I could give you the typical answer–because God said to. But my journey hasn’t been that simple, so let me start at the beginning.

I grew up in a stream of faith that favored intellect over emotion. Doctrine trumped everything. Knowing God meant understanding the Scripture and obeying it. There was little room for struggle or questions. While grace was preached from the pulpit and talked about in Bible study, the application was always focused on working for God. Very little was said about being with God. If you knew enough about God and made the right (and obvious) choices, then you could navigate through life without being stained by the world.

That worked until I was in my early 30s. And then my carefully crafted world cracked under the weight of suffering. In the course of 5 years, my my sister, my father-in-law, and my mother all died. My husband and I also dealt with infertility, unsuccessful fertility treatments, and one failed adoption. (We did eventually adopt from Guatemala…another story altogether!)

At the end of our 5 years of hell on earth, I was done. I was left with questions that couldn’t be answered by the I explanations I had heard in Sunday School. I knew God existed. One glimpse of creation told me that. Everything else–especially the character of God–was in question.

In my grieving and searching, my therapist suggested I seek out a spiritual director. At first, I thought, That sounds like a lot of New Age crap. But the more I read and explored, the more I realized that my stream of faith didn’t hold the corner on truth. Christians who weren’t in my tribe had gifts to offer, too.

I questioned. I struggled. I read. I learned about the early mothers and fathers of the Christian faith. I discovered how much I loved a more contemplative approach to a relationship with God. It suited me me more because it left room both to love God and be mad at Him too. It allowed me to use my creativity to relate to Him. And it gave me practices to go beyond knowing truths about God to actually experiencing Him.

Fast-forward 10 years. People began to speak into me, encouraging me to become a Spiritual Director myself. I had the opportunity to offer to others what had been given to me–space for quiet; freedom to question; listening for God’s Spirit; seeing subtle movements toward Him.

I looked into at least a dozen different training programs for Spiritual Directors and finally landed on one offered by The Institute for Christian Spirituality. The format allowed me to miss work on a minimal basis, and the location suited my busy life as a wife and mom. Little did I know then that God would radically change me through that program, my fellow participants, and its leaders.

So, almost two years later, here I am. Leading silent retreats. Offering spiritual direction to people. Leaning into my questions and sometimes living without answers. And I’m learning to surrender to the furious love of God.

My deepest passion is in helping other people discover that love, too.

I’d love to talk with you more about spiritual direction. Email me at pam.gibbs227@gmail.com or leave a comment with your info and I’ll get in touch with you!

What Is Spiritual Direction?

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Spiritual direction is the practice of sitting with and holding space for a person as they seek to pay attention to God’s presence and activity in and around them. As a spiritual director, I am “dusting for the fingerprints” of God in your life. Together, you and I are listening for how the Holy Spirit is leading you into a deeper relationship with God.

Here are a few other definitions of spiritual direction:

“The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what [Christians] call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul.  This is an entirely supernatural (spiritual) thing, for the work of rescuing the inner person from automatism belongs first of all to the Holy Spirit.” –Thomas Merton


“Spiritual direction is help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.” –William A. Barry


“Spiritual direction is essentially companioning someone in his or her spiritual life. Other ways of describing spiritual direction include holy listening, spiritual friendship, sacred journeying.” –Janna Larson

While many people from the Christian tradition seek spiritual direction, it is not limited only to Christians. Many people who do no identify themselves by a religious label seek to understand the Mystery behind their existence. Many spiritual directors, myself included, are comfortable sitting with and listening to others from different backgrounds and beliefs.

Interested in exploring your relationship with God? Fill out the form in the “contact me” section. I’d love to talk with you!