Jumping into Serendipitous Grace

Dec 7 / Darcy Hansen
My spiritual directee arrived ten minutes late.[1] I had already spent 20 minutes trying to settle my new puppy into her crate with treats and such but was unsuccessful. So, when the spiritual direction session began, my pup was still losing her puppy mind with separation anxiety. I just kept thinking, “This will be a total shit show of a session.”

As my directee arrived, I could see it in her countenance and in her eyes, she was ready to share. Something was pressing and she was ready to be pushed. She seemed completely unphased by the loud, piercing puppy noise in the next room.

We opened our session with five minutes of silence, which was not silent as my puppy continued her anxious whines. I prayed, asking God for the ability to hear what emotional currents lie beneath the anxious noise emanating from the directee, myself, and my pup.

The directee brought her reflection cards to the session.[2] As she shuffled through the deck looking for a connecting image, I sensed God nudging me to introduce her to a different set of reflection cards created by Melanie Weidner.[3] As my directee shuffled through the new deck, she quickly pulled cards whose images resonated with what was happening internally in her spirit. Upon inspection, there was a common theme to the images: new birth and possibility.

We explored why she selected these images, for they were contrary to her present lived reality. For weeks she had been participating in a trauma recovery group to examine deep wounds inflicted upon her soul throughout her lifetime.

I listened to her share and instantly felt led to accompany her through a visual prayer practice my spiritual director has taken me through a number of times. It is called the paradox prayer. It involves naming shame and tackling it head on, with the grace of God present.[4] It is a very embodied practice.

Though I have personally experienced the power of the paradox prayer, I have never facilitated the practice with a directee. I was scared at the possibility. What if it takes the directee to a place that I am not equipped to help her though? What if she experiences more pain than healing?

While asking these fear-driven questions, I took a deep breath and listened. I knew if I was to accompany my directee to unknown places in her heart, I needed to remain a non-anxious presence, a differentiated leader.[5] Upon this realization, I felt a silent embrace. My pup had finally quieted down. I’m not sure when the settling happened, but I was grateful for the quiet as we proceeded through the session.

Spirit led this session in a way I could not have predicted. As I sensed and responded to Spirit’s movement within myself and my directee, something happened in my directee. I can’t fully explain it, nor can she, but it was like a metaphysical integration occurred within her. I could sense it happening. As tears flowed from my directees eyes, I knew she sensed it, too. Something in the space we inhabited shifted in an indescribable way. In hindsight, I wonder if what I witnessed was the transformative miracle of reconciliation?

Remaining on the edge of the unknown feels safe, but it robs us of frisson, those sudden passing sensations of excitement that come after we jump into a free fall. Until we jump, we never really know life and why it is worth living.[6] While jumping into the unknown is scary business, if Spirit is leading and serendipitous reconciliation is a possible outcome, why would I ever not take that leap?

[1] I have received permission from my directee to share a snapshot of our session in this blog post.
[2] I was introduced to reflection cards by Katie Skurja. Katie was one of my professors at Portland Seminary. Reflection cards invite people to examine internal realities through imagery. Often the images help give structure and context to emotions and events that are difficult to articulate. You can find out more about Katie’s work here: https://www.idmin.org.
[3] Melanie Weidner is an artist and spiritual companion. Her beautiful reflection cards can be found here: https://listenforjoy.com/collections/all.
[4] Katie Skurja introduced me to this prayer. She hosts Prayer for Inner Healing workshops through The Companioning Center: https://companioningcenter.thinkific.com/courses/inner-healing-training-for-practitioners-level1-t-jan-mar-2021.
[5] Edwin H. Friedman. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. (New Your, NY: Church Publishing, Inc., 1999, 2007) 183.
[6] Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza. Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Spontaneity. (London, UK: LID Publishing, Ltd., 2016) 263.

Darcy Hansen

Darcy is a wonderer and a wanderer who is learning to breathe, listen, and abide within the liminal spaces of life. She holds a Master of Divinity (concentration in Spiritual Direction) and spiritual direction certification from Portland Seminary. She is currently working on her Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives, at Portland Seminary. Her research focuses on discovering ways to more fully embrace our humanity, so we are better equipped to care for the dying, dead, and grieving in our communities. As a spiritual director, Darcy walks alongside others through the holy and hard of life, seeking the Divine along the way. To learn more, see www.darcylhansen.com.