Finding Spiritual Direction Through Service


I stood rigid looking into the bathroom of the men’s homeless shelter.  Behind me were five teenagers who had followed my crazy idea to give up their spring break to go on a mission trip.  I doubt any of the fixtures had seen a scrub brush or bleach in a few months.   I dare not try to describe the smell.

I knew what I had to do but my thoughts had to do with how I move, motivate or manipulate these young people to step forward!  I had only arrived at this church seven months ago!  What on earth had I been thinking?  So, I stepped forward, grabbed the hose and a scrub brush and found the far corner.  Ever so timidly, the youth moved forward, following my lead.

As I worked, I sensed Jesus’ words asking me, “Didn’t I do a little cleaning work too?”  With the nudge, I asked the youth, “Do you remember a time when Jesus did some washing and cleaning?”  One young man said, “Oh yeah!  He got down on his hands and washed the disciples’ feet!”  In a moment, the Spirit transformed the bathroom of this homeless shelter into sacred space.  Joy enveloped us as we began to imagine making this the cleanest bathroom these men would ever know.  

In a recent interview, professor, pastor and author, Eugene Peterson mentioned, “Everything in the Gospel is livable not just true.” (see below for the full interview on PBS)  One of our roles as spiritual directors is helping those who come to us, see a livable Gospel not merely teachable truths.  It is true Jesus washed the disciples feet but is this the point?  “And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. (John 13:14)”  Missions and service take us to the dirty feet of our world, to places where truths taught become truths lived.

Watch Eugene Peterson on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

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