When I was training as a spiritual director, we sang a centring song, to gather us in: "Sacred is the trust, awesome indeed the entrustment: tending the Holy, tending the Holy." It reminded us of the privilege and the responsibility of tending the Holy in the lives of the seekers who came to us for guidance and companionship.
We believed that God was not only the “Holy Other,“ dwelling above the clouds; God was also the “Holy Intimate,“ residing in each human heart. Spiritual direction was the art of paying attention to that sacred presence, helping the seeker to awaken to recognize and to trust the Spirit of God within them.
Becoming our own gurus means turning our gaze inward. As long as we think God is remote and far away, we will never trust, let alone even know, the leading of our own hearts. We will all too willingly give over our spiritual path to someone else, someone who knows better, someone more experienced in these sorts of things.
The ultimate act of faith is not in trusting the direction given us by others, however saintly they are. It is listening to the direction we receive from within. When I realized I was "done" with the church, it wasn't a decision prompted by someone else. It wasn't a decision at all. It was an acknowledgment of something I already knew, deep inside. Faith meant trusting that knowledge, and following where it led.
Some fear that becoming our own guru might mean that anything goes. In a way, that's right. Anything does go, when we turn our gaze inwards. What we see and hear may or may not conform to what faith looks like to someone else. But tending the Holy means paying attention to the inner voice, and testing it against whatever wisdom we have received, whether in conventional religious belief or in the wise ones who have spoken to our hearts and minds. As the Bible says, we have to "test the spirits."
Faith is not blind obedience to whatever my inner voice tells me to do. No one is better at deceiving me than I am myself. It's an attentiveness to the deeper movements of my soul--the worries, the bliss, the passions, even the neuroses. Hidden within that which moves us and disturbs us is that which calls us: the Spirit of God, some might say, trying to get our attention.
Tending the Holy within, becoming my own guru, is the ultimate act of faith. I am trusting that the God who created the universe, who lives above the clouds in glory, also lives in me, loving me from the inside out, and beckoning me toward my heart's true home.
Next week: Spiritual Companionship