i’m seeing a spiritual director…

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : May 31, 2007

I’m sitting outside of st. Olaf’s Church in downtown Minneapolis. In minutes I’ll be meeting with my spiritual director for the first time. I’m a little nervous…


I wrote the above with my cell phone because I was bored.  I didn’t think folks would actually comment on it.  But I’m glad some folks did.  It gives me an opportunity to explain what spiritual direction is, and why I am pursuing it.

Someone goes to a spiritual director to share about life and spiritual issues.  The spiritual director listens, asks questions, and helps the person discern where God is present in the person’s life.  The director helps process and may give suggestions about spiritual exercises or practices.

I approached my director because I felt like I needed help experiencing God’s peace in the midst of my ministry.  I have lots of anxiety about my place in life right now.  We’re struggling financially and I feel like there are tons of things that I could put on my plate and I needed some help with discernment.  And because so much of these struggles and feelings I have are tied up in Missio Dei, I felt it would be good to see someone outside of my situation.

The idea isn’t to have my spiritual director replace the intimacy of spiritual friendship, but to supplement it.  Nor is he an “Answer Man.” He is there to help me center my spiritual life on God.

My spiritual director is a man named David Rothstein. I got into contact with him through a Mennonite pastor friend.  I was praying for a spiritual director who understood monasticism, undertood Anabaptism, and would be able to “get” my situation with Missio Dei.  David was an answer to prayer.  He spent 17 years as a brother at St. John’s Abbey and understands exactly where I’m coming from.

I’m slightly uncomfortable sharing this…it has come to my attention that lots of friends and family read my blog (but never comment)…and many of these family and friends might be “weirded out” that I am visiting a former monk for spiritual direction (though I’m sure I’ve divulged much more disturbing things on this blog!).

Some people have voiced concern that I’ve gone off the theological deep end. How does a good conservative charismatic evangelical end up a Social-Justice-promoting, Catholic-loving, anti-imperialist, neo-monastic, peace-loving Anabaptist?  I understand their concern. I really do.  But I’m still the same Mark, but certain areas of my thinking have indeed intensified and developed.  While other areas of thought have recessed.  The only part of my Christian past that I’ve rejected is Calvinism.  I’m still a charismatic (by most general definitions).  I’m still an evangelical (by some standards).  I’ve always had anti-imperial, anti-consumerist leanings.  I’ve always teetered on the edge of pacifism.  And I’ve been a secret admirer of much of the Catholic Tradition (especially the monastic stuff) for a LONG time.

So what happened? Well, when I decided to leave comfort, security, and common sense behind, things shifted.  As I began to read the Gospels seriously–as though Jesus’ teachings and actions were CENTRAL to my life, things shifted.  As I began to try to live out the Christ-life, things shifted.  My theology began to shift and move as I EXPERIENCED Christ in my life.  When you experience Christ in the poor, you read Scripture differently.  Orthopraxy rises up to the lofty perch of Orthodoxy and they become best friends.  And my best reading of Scripture, mixed with my best theological thoughts, combined with my experience of God’s presence (in Christ and through the Spirit) end up looking very much like a Social-Justice-promoting, Catholic-loving, anti-imperialist, neo-monastic, peace-loving Anabaptist who still maintains the best (as I see it) of the charismatic and evangelical movements.

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9 Responses to “i’m seeing a spiritual director…”

  1. Anna on May 31st, 2007 9:53 am

    Prepare for doing so many push-ups that you will cry on the floor like a baby… oh, wait…spiritual director. Pshaw, you’ll be fine. Your ego will take a kicking, but that is what you signed up for, right?

  2. Mak on May 31st, 2007 10:01 am

    what is this spiritual director for?

  3. Jeff on May 31st, 2007 10:33 am

    what is a spiritual dir? Who is your spiritual dir?

  4. dlw on May 31st, 2007 12:19 pm

    who maybe someday will start voting again and encourage others to do likewise in creative independent ways?…

    just messing with ya!

    I think it’s great that you are seeing a spiritual director. My director is my great uncle Rob Boyd. I’m also glad you got that doxy and praxy thing wrapped together, now we gotta try and change some of both parts… ;-) dlw

  5. markvans on May 31st, 2007 12:39 pm


  6. Mak on May 31st, 2007 1:33 pm

    I think that’s wonderful. I need that actually.

    I totally know what you mean about the change you have experienced and how people might perceive it. My husband and I have undergone a similar change. we used to be “good right wing charismatic evangelicals”…well, let’s just say things are different in much the same way as you.

    May God give you direction and wisdom and honor your heart searching for his voice

  7. Jeff on May 31st, 2007 4:35 pm

    That is cool. I do not know the old Mark, well I really do not know the new Mark either. I think we have a similar journey, experiencing God and seeking Justice. Keep on the journey.

  8. Barbara on May 31st, 2007 5:02 pm

    I’ve been thinking/praying about getting a spiritual director so your post was very helpful….thanks.

  9. Nate B on May 31st, 2007 9:21 pm

    Mark, truth be told, you are not really that weird seeing a spiritual director, and I think more than not, most people probably think it is a cool thing to see a spiritual director. Of course, this is coming from a guy who has been seeing someone for three years. I would say it is one of the BEST things someone can do for their personal and spiritual life. Everyone should see a director and we should be training to be directors ourselves.

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