Friday, May 2, 2008

Journey of Faith

I had an opportunity today to be at a hospital which has a labyrinth prayer garden. It generally isn't good when I have an occasion to visit a hospital. It generally means a member of my congregation is there. And this particular hospital is a two-hour drive from my home, so I rarely get the occasion to pray and meditate at this labyrinth.

A labyrinth is not to be confused with a maze in which you can get confused and turned around, a labyrinth is a ancient way of prayer and meditation in which you walk a path that leads you into the center of the labyrinth and follow the same path back out.

The labyrinth at the hospital is based the labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. (See picture to the left.) It is a very intricate pattern in which you wind your way toward the center. The idea with this type of pattern for a labyrinth is that it draws you inward to a reflective place in which you can commune with and listen to God.

As I began to walk this particular day, I was a little cranky (okay maybe a lot cranky) at the unjustness of life sometimes. "God, I don't understand why people have to get cancer" I groused in my mind.

As I walked in to the labyrinth, and I was struck as always by the path. It is relatively a very short distance (as the crow flies, so to speak) from the entrance to the center. But that isn't the way a labyrinth works. It is a long journey to get to your destination, and even the destination isn't the end, as your journey leads you back out.

As the path wound and twisted, and I walked and prayed, I made the observation that life is like that. It winds, it twists, but we never want to rush to the end, and yet sometimes we do. We rush through life never enjoying the journey.

As I came to the first of the outer circuits, I noticed the annoying prickly holly bushes that were not intrusive when originally planted, but after reaching full size, invaded the outer circuit. If you stayed on the path, you risked pain and discomfort. If you veered off the path, you risked losing your place. (At this time, a risk I was willing to take, but you see the correlation with life.)

Also, there were annoying branches hanging over the path from a near by tree, and I was irritated by the lack of much needed tree trimming. I also noticed various organic debris from various trees, bushes and whatnot which had most likely deposited on the path by the recent storms that had went through the city.

As I continued to walk and whine, and argue and fuss with God, about things I don't understand (which could fill all the oceans), God began to speak to me through the labyrinth. The road is long, and isn't always easy, deal with it. You are going to have things that knock you off the path, get back on. There will be things that bring pain, persevere. Nothing is neat and tidy, get over it. If you are irritated by the lack of care others are showing to a particular issue, do it yourself.

Well, as you can imagine, I wasn't happy with God's apparent lack of compassion to my whining. And then I began the last walk into the center of the labyrinth and heard in the ear of my heart, "leave it here with me." So I stayed in the middle and prayed, and left it there.

I noticed as I returned from the center that I wanted to continue my rant, but I really couldn't get a good head of steam worked up. As I walked, I just kept thinking "leave it here, with me."

I came out of the labyrinth and my spirit felt lighter. I didn't receive any divine revelation that the situation would turn out peachy keen fine just the way I wanted it. The situation had not changed when I returned to the hospital waiting room. Nothing had changed - except my spirit was lighter. I was no longer carrying all the negative whiny thoughts, I had left them with God. God could deal with them.

Some people may wonder what the point is to faith, if it doesn't change anything. Circumstances and situations may not change, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, but faith always changes the person with it for the better. I told two of the nicest people in the world today this..."it is one thing to believe...people always say what they believe 'I believe in God' or 'I believe in Jesus', but is holding on to your beliefs when everything in the world is trying to knock you off the horse." Okay, so it is a bit of a mixed metaphor, but you get the message.

Hold on to faith, and when things get really rough, take them to God. Even if you are delivering them whining and crying and fussing. But when you get them there...leave them there, with God.


coolwaters2000 said...

Sonja, I think God is the ultimate non-anxious presence who is willing to listen to, and perhaps absorb my expressions of angst without His/Her feeling the need to straighten out my thinking. I have often been a pastor who was there, but with nothing to say because there were no words that would help. I think when God offers consolation, He/She is more comfortable with silence than I am. And I appreciate a God who is willing to listen to my groaning of the spirit when I can’t find the right words.

David Mercer,

Rev. Jeremy Smith said...

They had a very nice labyrinth and prayer area at General Conference. I found it cleared my heart of anxiety after one particularly anxious legislative meeting, so I definitely affirm your post!