A Feature Review of
When Faith Becomes Sight:
Opening Your Eyes to God’s Presence All Around You
Beth Booram and David Booram
Reviewed by Dale Gish
If you have ever had a spiritual director, you know that you typically see your spiritual director once per month. During your meetings, your director listens to you, prays with you, and helps you look for God’s presence and work in your life. But in spiritual direction, the focus is not on the director sharing their wealth of wisdom and understanding. Instead, a good spiritual director may speak very little in a session which helps keep the focus on God and on the relationship between the directee and God.
However, sometimes you wish you could go to your spiritual director and just listen, soaking up all their spiritual wisdom and knowledge. If you booked a spiritual direction session with Beth or David Booram I doubt you would be granted this comprehensive wisdom download, but fortunately, they have written a book that you can read their collected spiritual wisdom… When Faith Becomes Sight: Opening Your Eyes To God’s Presence All Around You.
Both Beth and David have been spiritual directors for more than a decade and disciples of Jesus for many years. They are founders of Fall Creek Abbey, an urban retreat house, and spiritual direction center in Indianapolis Indiana. There they offer spiritual direction, train spiritual directors, offer retreats and supervision for spiritual directors. So the Boorams have a lot of wisdom to share, and we are the beneficiaries.
When Faith Becomes Sight accomplishes a lot in its 218 pages. Think of it as part prayer manual, part spiritual direction textbook, part psychology informed self-discovery workbook, and part contemplative prayer survey. Beth and David masterfully weave together personal stories, spiritual direction session narratives, guided scripture meditations, quotes from spiritual direction masters, and reflection questions to form an engaging book that draws the reader deeper into reflection on God’s work and the terrain of the reader’s own spiritual journey.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the active God that it portrays and assumes. Many Christians today are functional Deists, who don’t experience an active God who initiates relationship and is alive and at work in their lives, not so with Beth and Dave Booram. Their first chapter begins with an exploration of God encountering Moses through the burning bush. While we may not be Moses, we are invited to live our lives on the lookout for the same God who puts “shimmering attractions” in our lives that if we respond to, lead us deeper into connection with God.
Because our God is active and involved in our lives, the Boorams invite us to overcome “our inner agnostic,” respond to God’s presence and be drawn closer to God. Spiritual direction, then, becomes a place to notice and reflect on the work of God in our lives, which further requires self-exploration as we come to know the terrain of our spiritual lives.
Chapter 6 has a helpful discussion of the ways that our image of God is often distorted by our families of origin, our faith traditions, our societies, and our own neurotic tendencies. We are invited to see afresh who God actually is so that our spiritual lives are not constantly short-circuited by false and hostile images of God. We can then test our images of God by using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, experience, and reason, seeking to see and know who God truly is. And while they don’t say this directly, I’m reminded that the evil one is always glad to have false and hostile images of God become roadblocks to mature discipleship and a deep, abiding, love relationship with the Lord.
There are also helpful chapters on encountering God in scripture and by exploring “God’s big book,” God’s creation. These chapters help us continue to explore the lenses that we see God through and help us to consider the conscious and unconscious lenses that we wear as we see, or don’t see God at work in our lives.
While sometimes discussions of spiritual direction can become esoteric, with vague discussions of “the divine,” with a dash of psychological and self-help jargon thrown in, this book is Christ-focused. The Boorams have clearly been significantly influenced by Ignatian spirituality, which grounds their spiritual direction in the person and work of Jesus. The chapter on encountering Jesus through Ignatian imagination is excellent, providing an engaging introduction to the Ignatian Exercises and Ignatian prayer, accompanied by Ignatian prayer meditations.
The final section of the book takes us on an exploration into the “deep waters of your soul.” We are introduced to the Ignatian concepts of consolation and desolation, seeking awareness of the contours, drives, and movements of our spiritual lives. In contrast to many of our traditions, we are invited to explore our desires as created by God for good and though they may be twisted or distorted, they are still used by the Lord to draw us deeper into relationship with God and ourselves. Spiritual direction becomes a place where we explore our desires and become more fully the person God has created us to be.
One chapter invites us to explore the obstacles and resistance we may have to deeper connection with the Lord. In another chapter, we explore the concept of the false self and true self and how to find freedom from our compulsions and other bondages. Another chapter focuses on the dark night of the soul, and how God uses times of spiritual darkness to grow and refine our spiritual lives with the goal of deeper union with God.
This book engages so well the work and movement of God in our life, as well as our own compulsive or distorted movements that I was surprised to find it lacking in any significant discussion or engagement with the movement or work of evil in our spiritual lives. From an Ignatian perspective, in addition to the movements of God and our own neurotic movements, the evil spirit is also at work, affecting us. This book would be stronger with an exploration of movements of the evil in our lives as well as the movements of evil in the structures of the world that so deeply affect our spiritual lives.
If you have never experienced spiritual direction or been introspective about your spiritual life you may struggle to engage with the book. However, this book does a good job of being accessible, so you don’t need a theology degree to read it. As a spiritual director, I found this to be a helpful and encouraging book, with useful resources, and one that engaged my own spiritual life through the meditations and reflection questions. Spiritual directors and people who have some experience with spiritual direction will find this book quite stimulating.
Perhaps the best test of a spiritual direction book such as When Faith Becomes Sight, is whether the reader, after finishing the book is more interested in having a spiritual director, and whether they would want to have the author as their spiritual director. I believe this book passed that test on both counts. I’m grateful to Beth and David for this book, and for their ministry that has been helpful to so many.