During the first session of one-with-one spiritual direction, I like directees to share their spiritual autobiography. In her book, Spiritual Companioning, Angela Reed offers a guide for helping us think about our spiritual journeys.
This is just one model. Directees can choose their own method for reflecting on their journeys of faith and formation.
Writing your Spiritual Autobiography
By Angela Reed
One helpful way to approach the spiritual autobiography is to begin with a symbolic image. For example, a river is a very meaningful symbol in many cultures, and most people find it quite natural to think about their own lives in terms of a river. The following exercise is useful as a way of stimulating personal reflection, leading to a greater self-knowledge and awareness of God's presence and guidance (or the apparent absence of God's presence) in one's life. It is a way of discovering how personal formation has taken place along the flow of your life, and in particular, how spiritual development has been a part of that journey.
In a quiet place, ask God to be present with you and begin to reflect on your life as a river's journey. Notice its source, its tributaries, its flow, its changes, its depth, its obstacles and shorelines. After some time, begin to respond with the activities below:
DRAW a river to represent your life, beginning with your birth and continuing to the present. Include all parts of your life, paying special attention to your spiritual formation over time. Use different colors to express your experience of various events and circumstances, and include descriptive labels. Take note of the following:
- Quiet, peaceful times (calm river, deep pools)
- Painful, stormy, and turbulent periods (rapids, waterfalls, barriers in the river)
- Times of excitement and rapid growth (fast-moving waters)
- Major influences contributing to your growth, such as people and events (tributaries, streams, and springs flowing into the river that may be toxic or life-giving)
ASK: where and how has God been active and moving?
ASK: where is the church in relation to the river?
Other questions to keep in mind as you reflect on the river:
- Where did you first become aware of God?
- What role has your family of origin played in your spiritual formation?
- Who has been important in helping you recognize God? Why? What has that person or persons said or done?
- What has been your experience with the church?
- What events or practices have been spiritually formative?
- How have you come to describe God?
- How do you see spiritual formation happening in your life?
—Angela Reed, Spiritual Companioning: A Guide to Protestant Theology and Practice, 148–49