Monday, August 31, 2009
Today I was in retreat with my Summer Shalom cohorts. We spent the day together sharing stories—insights, challenges, gifts, shalom moments, etc. It was an amazing day of communion, with God and with one another. One of the most profound experiences for me was when, after we ate a hearty meal prepared by the sisters of St. John the Baptist retreat house, we walked a labyrith. The Labyrinth is an ancient spiritual discipline practiced in the medieval church that predates Christianity. It has been practiced by seekers and disciples in various religious traditions. It is a mystical experience mirroring the spiritual journey that we find ourselves on. One by one, we entered the labyrinth, modeled after that 11 circuit labyrinth found in the Chartres Cathedral in France, and walked toward the center. At first glance, a labyrinth looks like a maze or a Ms. Pacman game. But the difference is, in a labyrinth you cannot get lost and there are no dead ends. You are always walking to the center, always on the right path. There are times when the center seems so close and a few steps later you are back on the outside.
We were told, before we entered the labyrinth, to walk in an attitude of prayer. So, before taking my first step I gathered my thoughts and focused on the prayer of my heart. My prayer was simple: "Lord, what is it that you would have me to do?" And so I walked, and prayed, and walked some more, and prayed some more. At some point I started to sing, first in my heart and then audibly, "Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come."
That was it. God wants me to come, just as I am, to love and seek and serve Him. The answer was as simple as my prayer—at least on the surface. Come. But coming to God isn't as simple as it seems, especially with all of life's distractions and attractions. Lord knows, I've been distracted lately. I've also missed out on the sweet communion that is only found when one bathes herself—when I bathe myself—in the presence of God. And so, I will come.
After that revelation, I still had some walking to do. I hadn't yet made it to the center. And so I continued to pray. I arrived in the center and thanked God for speaking to my heart. I placed all of my emotions before God—fear, anger, anxiety and the like—and asked Him to remove them from me so that He would be magnified in my life. And then I left. It was time to journey back out to where I had started. As I walked I found my steps were hastened. I was rushing out. (Typical behavior for me.) And then the Spirit whispered to me: "The journey out is as important as the journey in." Wow. What a word. I've been focusing lately on life after Seminary, but the truth is, although I am on my way out, I am not done yet. We spend so much time on the what's next that we don't relish in the what's now. I mean, I've been counting down the days until I leave for Tennessee, graduation, and my birthday. Those days will be here when they get here. But until then I have now to cherish and be better. And so, as I journey out of this place called Drew, I will pace myself, remember to breathe, and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my walking in.
All that to say, prayer is not limited to Sunday mornings or on one's knees. Prayer is for anytime and anywhere your heart, mind, soul, eyes, and ears are open to hearing a word from God. And, if you haven't walked a labyrinth, I would highly recommend it. Each and every time I've taken that walk of prayer I have heard from Heaven.
(image taken from http://www.angelvalley.org/assets/images/angel_valley/labyrinth_chartres.jpg)