I began seeing a spiritual director after the birth of my second son. It was about five years ago when I found myself at the end of my rapidly fraying rope. I had served in full-time vocational ministry for nearly eight years then (two different churches) and my soul was dry and empty.

What do I mean by a dry and empty soul? I was performing all of the tasks of ministry brilliantly. I was teaching (what I thought were) riveting bible lessons on a weekly basis. I was providing pastoral care and counseling to dozens of individual families while leading hundreds of students in weekly programs, camps and retreats. I was in the process of developing a successful small group ministry that placed me in charge of the spiritual care of dozens of adult volunteers. I was even accepting many invitations to preach, teach and write for churches and organizations outside of mine. On the outside, it appeared that I had it all together; ministry and motherhood. I even obtained my Masters in Divinity during these years.

But on the inside, I was dry and empty.

I didn’t read my bible unless I was preparing a lesson.

I didn’t really pray unless I was interceding for someone who was in need.

I had increasingly significant doubts and a lack of resonance with the images of God that had been handed down to me.

I was experiencing great doubt about a God who I was told sought to silence women and push away the marginalized, the God who told gay people they were going to hell, the God who voted one way and not the other. The truth is, I did not have an experience of God at all during this time. Instead, I was going through the motions.

As a minister, I believed that I had no one to talk to about the state of my soul.

As a minister, I believed that I had no one to talk to about the state of my soul.

What parent in my youth ministry would be thrilled to listen to the faith questions of their Youth Pastor who is responsible for shepherding the faith of their child? What young student can handle the ambiguity of faith deconstruction or the complexity of embracing tension? What boss, Executive Minister or Senior Minister, has the bandwidth to mentor a young Christian (especially a young woman!) through this kind of crisis? And my friends, they were members of my church. I represented our church and our ministry to them. I couldn’t drag them into this. Most of my family members who wanted to help did not understand and could offer me only semi-helpful support and care. They didn’t get it. No one did.

Until one day, shortly after the birth of my second son, when I got a call from a spiritual director. Her name was Rhesa Higgins. She told me about her vision to provide “soul care for spiritual leaders, especially women.” I didn’t know what spiritual direction was and I definitely didn’t know was soul care was. I assumed that she considered me a spiritual leader. And so I immediately said yes and asked how I could get involved in the organization. Since that day, I have participated in a monthly spiritual direction group and I began receiving monthly individual spiritual direction with Rhesa shortly thereafter through a ministry called Eleven:28. I can say with 100% certainty that I would not still be in vocational ministry were it not for these soul care rhythms that I engage in every single month through this ministry.

I can say with 100% certainty that I would not still be in vocational ministry were it not for these soul care rhythms that I engage in every single month through this ministry.

During this season of COVID-19, pastors and ministers are more dry and empty than maybe ever before in their ministries. Many of us have lost all sense of a work/life balance in this new “work from home” reality. I take calls from church members in the early mornings and late nights to maneuver around their work schedules. Many of us have lost the daily joy of family time because we are with our families around the clock! Many of us may be experiencing new tension in our marriage as both spouses struggle to juggle schooling the children, getting the housework done and sharing a small guest bedroom turned into an office for two. On top of all of this, many ministers fear the loss of their income as most churches continue to meet exclusively online. Many of us don’t know how to prioritize spiritual disciplines and develop new rhythms of being with God during this chaotic season of COVID-19. Many of the pastors and ministers that I talk to tell me that their souls are dry and empty. This is why I am telling my story today.

Spiritual direction taught me two significant truths.

  1. God is present even in the nothingness. Even in the lack of a God experience, God is there. Spiritual direction has taught me to ask questions of this nothingness instead of making judgements. Spiritual direction is a place of co-curiosity where the Director and the Directee both curiously engage the soul questions together. My favorite Spiritual Direction question is “Where is God in this?” This question assumes what I have learned to be true no matter what: that God is always there.
  2. Spiritual direction has taught me that it is ok to not be ok. Spiritual direction is not a place to get problems fixed or solutions to answers. It is not “self-help” or therapy. It is not even a place for advice. Instead spiritual direction can be likened to midwifery. A pregnant woman in labor goes to a midwife so that the midwife can aid her in giving birth to what is inside of the pregnant woman. The midwife does not have the baby for her. The widwife coaches the pregnant woman to do what she was created to do. In this, a spiritual director helps us give birth to what God has planted inside of us.

Maybe you are a pastor or a minister or another type of spiritual leader and you are dry and empty. If this is you, reach out. There are spiritual directors who meet via Zoom and Skype and FaceTime and phone call all over the country. I’ll leave a few resources here.