Trusting the Slow Work of God

Trusting the Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
excerpted from Hearts on Fire

Completing a Certificate in Spiritual Direction at CTS is a slow process. Participants engage in 4 residencies over the course of two years and then have a practicum piece to complete following the conclusion of those residencies. At a minimum, it will take a participant 30 months to complete the program requirements. This is a significant investment of time, but is it essential?

The prayer of the 20th century mystic Teihard de Chardin comes to me as I sit with this question.  His lovely prayer that begins “Above all else trust the slow work of God” reminds me how quick we are to want to arrive at our destination. Yet de Chardin notes that time, along with our good intentions, is an essential ingredient in the transformation of the human heart.  Stunningly, time in de Chardin’s prayer is the vehicle of God’s grace. The spiritual direction certificate program at CTS takes serious this wisdom.  His words are a reminder that it is not enough to want to be a spiritual director, or to know about the contours of the ministry; time to integrate teachings and to cultivate the skills and sensibilities of a spiritual director are essential as well. Lived experience must be a part of the process as our hearts and minds are transformed and equipped to serve as spiritual directors. For this reason, CTS’s program in spiritual direction does take time and has a robust practicum component.

I had the privilege of serving as the coordinator of the practicum requirement for first cohort of participants in the program.  How lovely it was to journey with others into the patient trust that de Chardin invites in his prayer. The promised transformation that comes through the alchemy of time/grace and our deep longings was present as the participants took the time and allowed themselves to be unsettled and reformed in service of God’s work for their own well-being and that of the world. In a poem titled Heading Out Maine’s beloved poet, Phillip Booth, wrote “How you get there is where you arrive…”  As this first cohort is on the cusp of completing their final practicum work, they are able to embody this same patient trust in God’s transforming presence as they offer spiritual direction in their various contexts. How lovely, indeed!

Mary Anona Stoops is an ordained pastor in the PC (USA) and trained as spiritual director among a community of Benedictine sisters. Currently she serves as Pastor for Adult Formation at North Decatur Presbyterian church, and as a spiritual director and part of the leadership team for the Certificate in Spiritual Direction program at CTS. Mary Anona loves exploring and adventure and is convinced that the greatest adventure of all is the journey into the inner landscape of the soul.

Learn more about the Spirituality Program’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction here. We invite and encourage those who are interested in the program to get to know us by attending a course in the Certificate in Spiritual Formation program.  Applications for the 2018 Cohort are now accepted through May 15, 2018.

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