Pastor, Do You Need a Pastor?

And do not underestimate the loneliness that comes from being “the buck stops here” person along with the natural process of projection that takes place between leaders and followers. This is par for the leadership course, and yet it takes its toll. By the time we come to spiritual direction, we may have lost any sense of being valuable beyond what we can produce. We might be harboring deep feelings of disillusionment about ourselves, the human condition and the institutions we serve—including (and perhaps most especially) the church. These experiences might have left us questioning our effectiveness as leader, whatever vision we’ve had and sometimes even our worth as a person.

The Encouragement of Light

When I embarked in spiritual direction, I was so beaten down by some of what I had experienced in pastoral ministry that I had a hard time believing anyone could look into my soul and see something good. I had experienced roadblocks that were deeply disillusioning to the extent that they had caused me to question my faith. When my spiritual director affirmed the brightness of my spirit or the goodness she saw in my heart, I was surprised to find that I had a hard time taking it in. I didn’t realize how far I had gotten from any kind of realistic sense of myself.

Even though it took time for me to get used to it and trust it, what I needed most in the beginning was the healing of my spiritual director’s nonjudgmental “seeing.” Her consistent affirmation of my journey as a person with the call of God on my life and leadership was a significant element of what brought me back to a place of health and strength in my spiritual life. As the poet Hafiz describes it so beautifully:

did the rose
ever open its heart
and give to the world all its Beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
otherwise we all remain too

This article originally appeared here.

Part Two of this eReflections series can be found here.

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Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is Founder and Chief Essence Officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.