One of the most burdensome, guilt-inducing concepts I was ever introduced to was the daily quiet time.
Imagine a young girl who sees God everywhere and in everything. Suddenly she's taught she needs to set aside a certain amount of time to spend with God (preferably in the morning) in a certain way (verbally, either spoken or written after reading "the Word"), and saying certain things (i.e. ACTS- Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication).
Now please understand there's nothing inherently wrong with this practice.
The trouble comes in thinking it's one-size-fits-all...that's when pastors, parents and mentors can accidentally place an ill-fitting yoke on a child.
Back to the young girl...as she got older, there were accountability groups and partners to help keep her quiet-times on track. Given this was taught to be of paramount importance to the Christian life and, given this little mystic was also a rule-follower and authority-pleaser, she tried really hard. I tried really hard.
I had "catch up days" written in my junior high journal when I did double, triple or quadruple the quiet-time to make up for lost days. I began to carry guilt about missing days, missed days or not doing it right when I wasn't missing days. I carried this into college. I felt pride when I had not missed and could tell my accountability group or partner. Its taken me almost two decades to let go of the quiet-time guilt.
Spiritual direction is not about having more or better "quiet times!"
Ironically, I invite people to befriend the quiet. However, it's more of a return home, offering space to remember the practices that best connect them with God. The truth is, the mysticism of my early childhood was a perfect way for God to "speak" to a little Type-A rule-follower. And it still is.
St. Teresa of Avila, the 16th c. Christian mystic, once wrote:
"Don't think that if you had a great deal of time you would spend more of it in prayer. Get rid of that idea! God gives more in a moment than in a long period of time, for His actions are not measured by time at all. Know that even when you are in the kitchen, our Lord is moving among the pots and pans."
In spiritual direction we discern how "our Lord is moving among the pots and pans" and inviting each of us to be aware. It could take the form of a typical daily quiet-time for you or it may be more like Brother Lawrence's "practicing the presence of God." Perhaps it's a combination. Like me, you may have different practices depending on the season of life (or the liturgical calendar). We'll take a look at how God uniquely created you to connect with the Sacred Mystery before well-meaning Christians stepped in assuming you didn't have a spiritual life.
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.