Honoring the Contents of Another’s Story

by Mark Cutshall


I live with a deficiency that’s been teaching me a thing or two as a spiritual director.

I think of it as a kind of poor man’s dark night of the soul. Before we take this to silence, a humble reminder that what’s said in this blog, stays in this blog:

I lose my keys. Like really often.

My keys will peek at me from behind the couch cushion and run. Gone. For hours. Sometimes days. It’s gotten to the point they don’t even bother to text me.

I would go on a silent retreat just to search my soul to locate them. But first I’d have to unlock the car.

And maybe here’s where the spiritual direction piece comes in. The other morning, I honestly thought I’d lost my keys for good. I moaned out loud in the kitchen and heard a familiar woman’s voice. “Honey, would you like to borrow my keys? They’re in my purse.”


My wife’s purse was right there within arm’s reach.

“Please give me the purse.”

Did I consent to this simple request? I’ll tell you what I did; I thought of the bumper sticker I’d seen one that said, “My Wife Says I Don’t Listen . . . or Something Like That.”

As spiritual directors, aren’t we trained to quiet down inside and listen for God who already inhabits the moment? How else can we truly sense, and respond to, the Spirit’s nudge?

Before Linda said, “Please give me my purse” for the third time, I was busily searching where no man should go.

My discovery: The faux leather interior of her purse seemed limitless. Inside the many zippered pockets lived a department store: Scraps of paper. Lip gloss. One red hair brush. A prescription from Walgreens. And a family of ball point pens.

Everything but the keys.

Somewhere between her nail clippers and a small forest of gum wrappers, I fell into a chuckle.

As a spiritual director, I truly enjoy listening to my directees’ honest search for self and God. Yet, in my human curiosity, I can be tempted to reach into their story and take possession of an unformed question, or an unspoken fear. Kind of like reaching into a big, black bag that’s not mine in search of things that don’t belong to me.

You know, I honestly can’t remember where I misplaced my keys that day, or how they made their way back into my life.

What I can tell you is that when I sit down to meet with my directee tonight, I’ll lay my key ring aside and focus on the person before me. My job will be to hold their unique and precious story. I will listen for God who is already very-well acquainted with the contents of their life. After all, it’s their “purse,” not mine.






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