I was asked to be a part of a strategic planning process at our church. We are in the midst of this now. It is an important, spirit-led journey which I can already sense is building excitement and engagement in our congregation. I’m blessed to be a part of it!
But as I walked through the church doors at 8:00am on this particular Saturday morning, my eyes felt hot and I blinked back tears. Our team’s work and time together is important – but my presence at this 6-hour meeting meant I was missing that much time more time with my kids and husband. After weeks of busy schedules, in the middle of a work season that has pulled me away from my family far more often that I’d like, it was almost too much to take!
Thankfully, we began our time together with a centering exercise. To “center” allows you to find a relaxed yet focused mind. Just what I needed to refocus and remember why I was there! We did a labyrinth – using our fingers to trace into the center of the picture and back out. I’ve written about using a labyrinth before (see Irrational Emotions) but this was my first experience “walking” a labyrinth while sitting down. I turned on the music from my phone to avoid getting lost in the negativity inside my head!
I found it surprisingly difficult to keep my finger on the right path – I really had to focus! As I started through the path, I was reminded of a story from Christmas. (I was actually not there myself, but heard about this later.) The church where my husband’s parents attend set up a labyrinth inside their church during Christmas. My father-in-law brought my husband, my son and our 8-year-old niece to walk the labyrinth one afternoon. I asked my 7-year-old son today to tell me what he remembered from that experience. He said there was soft piano music playing and it was a calming space with colorful lights in the middle. (My husband explained that the color was from the reflection of a stained glass cross through the sunlight.)
My son set the scene, so I asked him to explain what he did there. He said you would walk the path – you’d start to get close to the center and then move farther away. At some point, he messed up; he unknowingly got on the wrong path and ended up back at the beginning without having first entered the center of the labyrinth! I asked him how that made him feel. He said he was mad – he felt stuck. He felt like he had failed! As he stood outside of the circle visibly upset, his grandpa quietly encouraged him: in life we sometimes get off track with God. We must get right back on the path and continue to move forward. God will be with us! My son began to walk again and this time found the center where he joined my husband and niece in prayer.
I warmly recalled hearing this story as I sat quietly in my own church over a month later, finger paused in the midst of this paper labyrinth. What an amazing lesson for my son – and for us! A path is set before us and God is present to guide us; all we need to do is follow His lead. Yet we still somehow get off track, lose our direction and find ourselves back at the beginning – in tears and begging for help! Through the gift of faith and our hope in a God who loves and leads, we grab tightly and jump right back on to God’s path for us!
I leave with two lessons to reflect on… First, when disconnected, I must create the time and space to center and refocus. And second, if I find myself outside of the circle or off of the path (even something as simple as being lost in my own desires – forgetting my call and God’s mission on a cold Saturday morning) I must hold onto God and let him lead the way!
I mentioned I was listening to music during this centering exercise. The most perfect song came on. (Music often seems to speak to your worry and concern if you allow yourself to listen! An answer to prayer, perhaps!?!) When we find ourselves stuck on the outside of the circle, no clue how we arrived there, declare to God “Hold onto me – don’t let me lose my way!”