Publisher: IVP Books (November 19, 2019)
–Review by Vern Hyndman
Beth and David Booram’s “When Faith Becomes Sight” is an invitation story to Spiritual Direction. If for any reason the term “Spiritual Direction” causes a hitch in your giddyap, this book is perfect for you.
For those who have been nurtured in relationship with a spiritual director, this is a huge affirmation of your journey and an encouragement to continue.
For those who have no real framework for the possibility that Spiritual Direction open in your life, buy this book.
And for those who are the blessed guides of others, who attract and care for people using the ancient framework of Spiritual Direction, consider buying a case of these books to distribute to folks who are not quite ready to engage.
The source of inspiration for this work originates in a quote from William Barry, “In order that an experience have a religious dimension two things are necessary: God who can be encountered directly and a person who is on the lookout for God.” (p. 202).
The Boorams reference the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a foundational principle for their lives and work. “One framework that we have found useful in navigating the need to balance our emotions and experience with our thinking and reasoning is the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. The Quadrilateral is described in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church: ‘Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience and confirmed by reason.’ ”(p. 208).
The book is arranged in three parts:
Part 1: Looking For: Recognizing Signs of God
Part 2: Looking Through: Discovering Our Conscious and Unconscious Lenses
Part 3: Looking Within: Entering the Deep Waters of Your Soul
Each chapter provides questions to stimulate self-reflection.
The Boorams define Spiritual Direction;
… here’s a brief description of spiritual direction that might help orient you as you start exploring what could feel like new terrain. Christian spiritual direction is help given by one believer to another that enables the latter to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship. (p. 210).
We acknowledge, however, that the term spiritual direction can be somewhat confusing if not misleading. Neither the person receiving direction (sometimes referred to as the directee) nor the one serving as the spiritual director are to be considered the originators of direction. The assumption in the background is that God alone is the true spiritual director. Gratefully, that enables us to relax and let go of any pressure to fabricate something or make things happen. God initiates, we simply respond. (p. 209).
Rather than a purely didactic style, the Boorams draw on their long experience in Spiritual Direction and wrap important ideas in composite stories. The stories are very interesting and engaging, and help to flesh out the topic.
Every story has a setting, and the Booram’s setting is Fall Creek Abbey, which is an urban retreat center in Indianapolis. I have visited this retreat center and heartily recommend it. Wide porches and a beautiful back yard, with an Abbey that is both traditional and comfortable. https://www.fallcreekabbey.org/ This year is their fourteenth cohort of training Spiritual Directors.
Spiritual Direction provides a distinct alternative to the more intuitive way forward of “just try harder.” Trying harder will eventually break your heart. The Boorams reframe the challenges, such as the internal resistance with which we derail ourselves. They bless the resistance as they invite their audience to grow past it. “Resistance in our life and relationship with God “is not something to be condemned or pitied but rather welcomed as an indication that the relationship with God is broadening and deepening.” So what exactly is resistance? Resistance is an unconscious or semi-conscious rejection of something or someone that intimidates us or makes us feel anxious.” (p. 161)
A powerful idea Beth Booram offers in the context of blessing our self-imposed limitations is illustrated by this short conversation. “She listened and then calmly said to me, “Do you know who that was talking with you on your way here? Your false self. And all you need to say is, ‘Thank you for trying to protect me as you’ve done my whole life. But I don’t need you to do that anymore.’” Dave also suggests that when we find maladaptive practices that thwart our growth or progress that we practice kindness. “Thanks for seeking to protect me, but I don’t need your help anymore.” (p. 182).
Spiritual Direction is chock-full of semiotics, and the chapter “Recurring Themes and Symbols” deals directly with the practical application of semiotics. “First, a theme speaks of the “big idea” of a story or musical composition. It tells us what the story or composition is about. Symbols are images that represent larger themes and more abstract ideas, like a dove for peace or a skull and crossbones for poison. And a motif is a repeating pattern that reinforces a theme. So, while we might use these terms interchangeably, each one does represent a unique idea. Your life is composed of large themes, often represented and reinforced by unique symbols and motifs that are personal, distinctive, and give structure to your life story. (pp. 21-22).
The book reclaims desire.
• When you’re completely honest with yourself, what do you really want?
• In your most personal, private moments what do you deeply, ardently desire?
• If you stop trying to play the capable, responsible hero, what is it that you need?
• What longings do you have that just won’t go away no matter what?
How do you feel when you read these questions? Uncomfortable? Overwhelmed? Curious? Excited? These questions can be experienced as a doorway to deeper intimacy with God, yourself, and others, and an unsolicited invitation to revisit past disappointments and might-have-beens. When we’re alone and most in contact with our true hearts and allow these questions to surface, they can either energize us to dig beneath our day-to-day surface activity and discover a refreshing fountain within or leave us scurrying toward distractions and the comfortable familiarity of what is. A wellspring is an apt metaphor for this irrepressible, God-given capacity to desire. Like it or not, try as we might, ignoring our core desires is just about as effective as capping an artesian well. If you succeed in stopping the original flow, it will only burst forth in new and unwelcomed eruptions. (p. 146)
By reframe desire, a massive signifier and opportunity for growth opens. “Surprisingly, we discover that desiring isn’t primarily about fulfilling. Desire is a powerful spiritual energy that moves us toward God and the life we were created to live”. (p. 148)
The Boorams provide a wonderful view of the Trinity which sums up their work, “There’s one final and reassuring theological reality that must be emphasized as we end. While you endeavor to be on the lookout for God, be assured that God is on the lookout for you! God, for all of your life, has kept his eye on you, aware of when you sit down and rise up, even knowing your thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2). This God you seek has always been seeking you. The Trinity’s patient and persistent desire is that you know God for who God truly is and become open to receiving God’s gifts of unremitting love, forgiveness, and grace.” (p. 203)