Prayer labyrinth

You know those prayer walks? Perhaps you know them as a prayer labyrinth or as a walking meditation tool. You start at one side and walk around, looping back on your path, until you reach the center.

I hate them.

They seem so pointless and so simple. What does this thing mean? Are you serious that I’ve spent all this time on this path and I haven’t gotten anywhere? I’ve gotten all the way to the center and now I have to work my way back out to the start again. What a waste of time.

I walked one of these labyrinths once. It was at the Scarritt-Bennett center in Nashville. I was really excited at the beginning to finally be participating in this meditation tool. These things have been popping up all over like the Christian version of crop circles for years but I haven’t had the time or inclination to walk one. Now I had both.

I read the instructions. Seems simple enough. Put one foot in front of the other. No choice required. You can’t do it wrong. If you kept walking forward, you’d end up in the center. Simple, right?

Except prayer isn’t anything like that.

There are a lot of choices when praying and even more in following God. Not all of them are simple and some of them are downright scary. Look at Abraham. Look at Moses. Look at Jesus. They all had to make huge sacrifices in following God. They all had to do really brave things with no training and no advice.

There is one part about the labyrinth that seems right. When walking, the path kind of folds back and forth and you end up going really close to where you just were, yet you are that much closer to the center. That fits with my experiences. Sometimes I feel like I’m on familiar ground often, but it is just a little different every time. I’d like to hope that I’m closer to the Source every time I feel that. Practice makes perfect, right?

When I see these labyrinths I want to skip right over all the little lines and just walk right to the center. That is just like how I pray. I’m not really into following rules and regulations. Come to think of it, that is a lot like how I live. Why do it the long way if the short way works? Isn’t the point of the process to get to the goal?

Skip the small talk.
Skip the appetizer.
Let’s get on to the meat of the matter.

Yet I think I might be cheating myself here. With the labyrinth, the goal isn’t the goal. You can achieve the goal within the first few steps. The goal is stillness, and trust. The goal is to just keep walking on the path.

Just starting on the path, you’ve gotten the goal.

Just seeking God, you’ve already found God.

Three a.m., or, Codependent with God.

I woke at three a.m. on Thursday morning. I was completely awake. I had to go to the bathroom, but I didn’t have any of that middle of the night fog. I wondered if it was God waking me up.

I’m still suspicious of this. My previous minister made it clear what she thought of these middle of the night experiences. This is of course the same person who explained the story of Samuel being awoken by God in a Sunday school class. (It is in the first book of Samuel, chapter 3 if you are interested). So apparently in her mind, God only talked to people back in Biblical days. She was a bad role model for how to follow God.

I’m still getting over that, and learning I have to figure this path out for myself. It isn’t easy.

I felt around for the call. Was it a call, or not? Usually a call has a bit of an insistence to it, but not always. It is nice to think that God isn’t like a hungry insistent baby all the time. Maybe God just wants a cuddle. I think God sometimes just wants for us to spend time with each other.

Sometimes there is some urgency to a call – something needs to be done right away. I understand those calls. I don’t like them, but I understand them. I can recognize them.

I could get up and write. I always have more to write. I have a huge backlog of mostly finished pieces and three memo books of “seeds” to get me started if none of those appeal to me at the time.

But it was three a.m. I’d gotten in bed at 11, and it was probably midnight before I actually went to sleep. I don’t like being around myself when I’ve not had enough sleep.

Then I heard it. God reminded me that God made me, and knows how much sleep I need. So it wouldn’t be a problem. So it was a call.

And then we had a little wrestling match. Thankfully when I wrestle with God it isn’t anything like what Jacob went through. It never is all night, there never is an angel there, and nobody cheats. Plus, no new name to deal with. (Genesis 32:24-31)

This time I was reminded of the line in Isaiah, where he points out that the pot can’t tell the Potter what to do. (Isaiah 29:16)

But I countered with the story that Abraham talked God out of wiping a city off the map without giving the inhabitants a chance to redeem themselves. (Genesis 18:16-33)

I felt a “click” of sorts. It is like I rounded a corner in my relationship with God.

I am willing to be a partner with God. I’m just not willing to be God’s lapdog.

This is totally opposed to everything I’ve read from everyone who writes anything about spirituality. They write about self sacrifice and selflessness. I’m talking about self care.

Sure, God has my back. I’ve seen it often enough, when I’ve answered the call and everything has worked out. There was a time when a friend needed to talk and we stayed up so late I didn’t have time to study for the test that was scheduled the next morning. It turned out that the teacher postponed the test. Then I had a lot of expenses recently, and not much extra money coming in from my beaded jewelry sales. Yet somehow we have more money now than we did before the car repair and the chiropractor visits. So I know that God is always making up for whatever God asks me to go through.

But I still didn’t want to feel like I have to jump when God snaps a finger at me.

But then I do. Or do I?

I want to be obedient to God.

I don’t want to fall out of favor. This connection with God is important to me, and I don’t want to lose it.

But then I feel like I’m in a codependent relationship with God, or like God is the angry, abusive husband and I’m the harried housewife. Yes, God, I’ll do whatever you say. Oops, God got mad – it must have been my fault. If only I was better, God wouldn’t act like that.

Starting to sound familiar?

I don’t want that kind of relationship with God. The only way not to have that kind of relationship is to establish boundaries.

If God is love, then I have to believe that God wants only the best for me, and isn’t going to push me around. I have to believe that God wants me to stand up for myself. I have to believe that God is cheering me on for saying no, even to God.

Codependency and Christianity are intertwined. They don’t have to be. That is a human invention. It isn’t the way Jesus wants us to relate to God. Jesus is about us having a direct relationship with God, and not one based on fear. Respect, certainly, but not fear. The Hebrew word “yare’ ” is often translated as “fear” but it also means respect, admiration, reverence, or to stand in awe, according to The NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.

God wants willing participants in the plan to make the world better, not cowering creatures. God wants us to stand tall, not throw ourselves down face first in fear. Sure, we have to respect God. We aren’t in charge. We didn’t create ourselves. Hubris is a dangerous thing. But we are better servants when we are strong than when we are weak. We are better when we are willing than when we are afraid.

I think this is what that call was about. It wasn’t about doing anything. It was about becoming something.

Poem – package of personhood

Remember that you are not

You can have a feeling of being human
and still
the stillness
the silence
creeps in
and then
in that moment you know.

Right now is temporary.
Right now is a blink of the eye.

Right now you are a soul in a vehicle
made of flesh
which itself is made of elements
and chemicals
and mostly water.

The only think that holds this
package of personhood together
is the will of God.

Whether you wanted to be here
or like many you are surprised
and struggling
and a little resentful

This is what the deal is –

Relax and it will go much easier.

It is only temporary.