Metaphor in Spiritual Direction – Reflections of a First Year Encounter student

Posted on July 11th, 2017

Grace Owen has just completed the first year of our Encounter course. In this post, Grace explores the richness of metaphor in spiritual direction and in our communication with God. ‘This imaginative language has, over the past year, become a creative, vivid and tangible way for me to pray. I have come to understand that metaphor is also how I learn deeply and how I enable others to learn.’

Looking back on the Encounter programme there was one highlight among many. It was the insight that God communicates to me through metaphor. This could be signs, icons, adverts, dreams, sculptures, pictures, symbols, films, scripture, drawings, scenes or phrases. Metaphors depict and reveal. They connect the abstract and the actual. Like a mirror they reflect life back, they convey what we can’t explain and through them we see God at work.

This imaginative language has, over the past year, become a creative, vivid and tangible way for me to pray. I have come to understand that metaphor is also how I learn deeply and how I enable others to learn. I have always been able to visualize on the screen of my mind’s eye so perhaps it is not surprising that metaphor engages, enlivens and enriches my spiritual life.

It was a NOW IS THE TIME advert that caught my attention as I walked the four-minute journey underground while simultaneously considering whether to sign up for Encounter. The sign nudged me to complete the form, I was interviewed and got a place, hurrah! The process and experience of formation has been challenging and wonderful. My long-held desire to know God more is a reality and while learning about the tradition of Spiritual Direction I made important connections between theory and lived experience, so many things made and make sense.

During the year I experienced a recurring metaphor.

I kept seeing parents with children on the street as I made my way to and from sessions with my Spiritual Director. I noticed that the children were held like gems in arms, with slings and stretchy fabric, carriers and backpacks, pushed gently in a buggy or pram, secured on a bike seat, held tightly by the hand or walking reins, accompanied, close or far, while riding a scooter or bike, with/without stabilisers. What did this all this mean? Why did I keep noticing, parents and children? To me they were as common as belisha beacons.

Through journaling the interpretation came slowly, an unveiling; God was showing me that the divine family are holding me, others and the world with love, care and much tenderness. We are precious. On an ordinary day, during a challenging time or while rushing to an appointment, I would see fathers and mothers with their child, or families on days out and be reminded “you are held”.

For the first time in 35 years of being a follower and disciple of Jesus I know that God is my loving family. I am the dependent, vulnerable and inquisitive child. Living in a busy city I encounter parents and children every day and this is a constant that God is ever present in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.

How does metaphor inform your experience of being a directee or spiritual director?

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