I wanted to learn more about my friend Beth Slevcove, who is a spiritual director in San Diego, and she agreed to answer a few of my questions. Here is the first of two parts:
Beth, How did you become a spiritual director? is there a dramatic story that lead you to that?
In my 20’s I worked just enough to pay the bills and spent the rest of my time in coffee houses reading books on Christian Spirituality, theology, the Bible, various mystics, etc., and during that time decided to go to Fuller Seminary. I went to seminary simply because I knew the Bible would be a primary text for me throughout my life and thought seminary could expand my understanding of scripture. I’m also a pastor’s kid, and the whole ministry thing seems to be in my blood. Just before I started seminary I received a flyer that talked about a new concentration called “Spiritual Direction.” I had no idea what Spiritual Direction was, but as I read the description, I felt my heart “burn within me.” This road to Emmaus language from Luke 24 is the best way I know how to describe it. I laugh when I think about filling out the application without even researching what spiritual direction was. I have no idea what I said. I was also about six years too young for the program, but somehow got in. They must have been desperate…or maybe, it was God.
Shortly after graduation I met Mike Yaconelli the co-founder of Youth Specialties, a para-church organization that ministers to youth workers throughout the country and world. He hired me saying, “We need to take some risks with the organization,” and with that, I became the Spiritual Director for the YS staff and for youth workers throughout the country. The risk, I suppose, involved taking our very creative, fast-paced, A.D.D. staff on annual silent retreats! Much of my time was spent working out what spirituality can look like for A.D.D. types. I also found myself introducing more contemplative practices into a very word-based, performance-based, earnest and overworked culture of ministers.
How do you describe what a spiritual director does?
A spiritual director is someone who helps another listen to the voice of the divine in his or her life. A Christian spiritual director is present with another person in a way that helps them notice where and how God might be lurking in the midst of their present situations. They usually do this by listening and asking questions. The Holy Spirit is the true “director,” and the underlying questions we, the director and directee, are listening for is “Where is God in that?,” “How is God leading, loving, convicting, touching you in the midst of that? (‘that’ being whatever it is being discussed).
A lot of folks meet with their spiritual director about once a month. Often, it can seem like not a lot happens during those meetings, but the slow growth in-between meetings can be profound. As Christians, we are always trying to develop a new way of seeing, a new way of listening, a new way of living. Meeting regularly with a spiritual director can be a helpful part of opening into our true selves and becoming new creations.
What practices nurture your own faith & spiritual life?
This changes depending on the season of life I’m in. One of the most helpful practices has been spending a couple days at a monastery every few months. At the monastery I find that the silence and solitude, nature and five daily prayer services open up places in me that need to be opened to God. I am often reminded of things about God, myself and others that I need to remember. With two toddlers, I am not able to do this as much as I would like.
Surfing is a spiritual practice for me.
When there is much internal and external noise in my life (like there is in this season) I find praying the morning and evening prayer helpful. I have a couple favorite books that offer simple morning and evening prayers (The Little Book of Hours: Praying with the Community of Jesus, Hour by Hour) or I use universalis.com and pull it up on my iphone or computer.
Books feed my soul and help me to stay connected to God. I read a section from the Rule of St. Benedict every day, and am currently reading anything I can find about God and grief. I’ve also jumped into the Bible with both feet this year. That’s been really rich. Weekly worship at my little church has become very important to me. The liturgy and the community hold me in Christ’s presence whether I’m feeling very faithful or not. There is a beautiful stability and rest in this kind of communal presence.
Currently, my greatest spiritual practice (the one that pulls me out of my self-centeredness the most) is mothering two young children with all the ways of submission and service this role involves. This “practice” also involves noticing the joy and wonder that oozes out of their little beings and recognizing these things as gifts. Being married also offers me endless opportunities of being formed by God. Honestly, between mothering and marriage, I can’t imagine a more rigorous and rewarding way of spiritual formation.
Where do you see God drawing you?
To submit to my life as it is today. This has been a difficult couple of years and I’m in the midst of a few situations that I very much do not like. It is hard for me to accept what is, and open up to where God is in the midst of it all, hard for me to trust. I have a tendency towards stubbornness and idealism. God draws, I resist, God draws, I complain, and so on, eventually I think God will win. Then other stuff will come up and the process will begin again.
[Image by Vince Alongi]