When David approached the giant Goliath he was wearing King Saul’s helmet and sword. He wasn’t used to wearing them “so he took them off.” (1 Sam 17:39) He became more vulnerable because he had no armor, but accomplished his mission because of unshakable trust in God.
As I enter more deeply into my training as a spiritual director, I am realizing my ‘armor’ no longer fits. I need to shed that which had been my protection, and in the process, become more vulnerable and increase my own trust in God.
In this last semester, I saw myself hiding behind this armor to portray myself as being something that I’m not. When I pretend to be someone I’m not in spiritual direction, I subtly give permission to the directee to do the same and keep their ‘shields up’.
It’s no surprise that my least effective spiritual direction sessions were when I searched my arsenal for just the right response that would keep me in control. I’d lose the thread of the conversation, and more importantly, the tapestry that the Holy Spirit was trying to weave. In contrast, the most fruitful moments were when I would just listen and reflect, sometimes offering nothing more than a sympathetic sigh as we paused to consider the presence of God at this moment.
Another bit of armor I had to drop was my own pride. The focus of the semester was on discernment, and being director of deacon formation for the diocese for years, I thought discernment was squarely in my wheelhouse. I soon realized that that type of discernment is very specific, defined by the criteria of the Church, and the outcome was partially determined by my team and me. In other words, I wore some powerful armor meeting with deacon inquirers and candidates. It’s not the same as meeting with a person seeking guidance, opening myself to their presence, and trusting that God is ultimately going to show up.
Shortly after David defeated Goliath, the king’s son Jonathan gave David his cloak. This prompted another image. I can’t wear the cloak of “the king’s son” if I’m wearing a lot of armor. It’s not going to fit.
All of these thoughts of armor and cloaks came as part of another requirement of the program: spend more time meditating on scripture. A third image surfaced a few days later, in one of the psalms:
Lord God, you are clothed in glory, wrapped in light as in a robe. (PS 104)
As I drop my own armor and begin wearing the cloak of the King’s son Jesus, I hope to ultimately wear a robe through which the light of God shines.
What bit of armor might you need to drop to engage with others on a deeper level?