We speak what we know and witness to what we have seen.
There is a saying: ‘when the student is ready the teacher will come’. And over this past weekend, I have discovered another side of this truth which is: ‘when the teacher is ready the student will come’.
I have seen individuals who take courses in spiritual direction only to express a deep angst when all their study does not seem to produce opportunities to actually serve communities or individuals as a spiritual director. It is true that students need teachers and it is also true that teachers need to be drawn into their gift by those seeking something they see in the ‘teacher’.
When Jesus encountered Nicodemus, he said to him: ‘We speak what we know and witness to what we have seen.’ This begs the question of what someone knows that is needed by another person. What have we seen that can be shared in a way that opens the vision of another? This sentence of Jesus reveals an essential characteristic of spiritual leadership: out of the personal experience of God we are called to invite others into their own experience.
It is not about academics; it truly is about experience and the integration of that experience that witnesses to others. We can read all the recent popular books. We can go to all the workshops and programs available and these can be helpful in opening us to new images and expressions of who God is and how God touches us. But the intellectual knowledge is just the first step in spiritual leadership. Jesus dialogue with Nicodemus reveals two other dimensions of a calling into leadership
- ‘unless one is born from above, that person cannot see the kingdom of God’ is how Jesus expressed this. In our language we would say: the calling into leadership comes as a grace of God. It is not something we achieve but rather something that is seen in us.
- He then goes on to say: ‘the Spirit blows where it will, we know it only by seeing and hearing its effects’ Again, in our language we would say that this is a gift that is freely given and you know the effect through the life that you live.
As Nicodemus had indeed been born of the Spirit but didn’t know it until Jesus called forth that gift into consciousness, so it is with us. Each of us is called to be student and/or teacher. It is a mutual calling forth. The depth of who we are is called forth within our lives by the depth of another seeing in us what we do not see in ourselves.
Like the Spirit, it comes when we least expect it and brings with it a deep humility.
We have been ‘born again’ and once that is acknowledged, it unfolds within the life we are called to live in new and more conscious ways.