I am convinced that hospitals are actually traps baited with your loved ones. They draw you in to go visit and inevitably you wind up wandering around, unable to find your way out, until the hospital has eventually worn you down so much that you sink into some uncomfortable chair in a random waiting room where you can be slowly digested. I’ve seen it happen.
Or maybe I have an over active imagination.
Hospitals get that way because they always need space. They are driven by need. The need to provide services, to house patients, to incorporate Starbucks. In the process they cut walls and wedge in corridors and stick rooms in every conceivable spot so none of the rooms have walls with 90 degree angles. They have limited space so they make every inch count.
Life is like that. We cram it full of the needs of the moment, building rooms and corridors, cutting down walls to accommodate. Patterns develop overtime. A cut through of convenience becomes a hall. Soon we find our lives are so complicated that we cannot get from point A to B without passing H, Q, and N along the way. Emotional and intellectual and spiritual way points that keep us tied up in minutia rather than where we want to go.
The confusion of our lives can keep us from seeing the path to God.
Mazes are those puzzles, usually found on kids menus, which much like hungry hospital corridors try to trick us into going to the wrong place.
A labyrinth, on the other hand, can be just as twisty; but it always leads to the center.
Walking the Labyrinth is a Christian practice that dates back to the 1200s, although it has been used by various traditions for millennia. Found on the floors of many medieval churches they represent the focal point of pilgrimage.
Walking the Labyrinth involves three stages:
1. Purgation: Releasing and shedding as we walk towards the center
2. Illumination: Resting in the center to receive inspiration
3. Union: Returning to our lives with a new awareness
The twisty lanes lead the worshiper to the center, during this time he or she works to give up the cares of the world and prepare to be with God. At the center the worshiper finds himself empty before God, ready to commune with God. Finally the path twists back out, where the worshiper returns to her world ready to do the will of God.
Labyrinths are fascinating, and you can even make your own if you have a small space, but they need not be physical places. You can draw or print labyrinths on paper if you cannot go to one.
Try developing your own rituals to come closer to God.
Start by finding a repetitive or simple task you can do easily. It might be assembling or dissembling a simple puzzle that you can do without much thought, coloring in coloring book, counting marbles from one jar to another, or taking a walk around your yard. Make a labyrinth with cheerios. The point is not the task itself. The point is the ritual of the task. It may take a while to get the hang of it. When you do you begin to set aside the things that occupy your thoughts. Just set them aside. Mentally put them away as you complete your task. Let go of them.
Find now a place to rest. Meditate on a short piece of scripture or an image. Look at a flower. The importance is to be mentally and physically still. This is not Bible study time nor is it the time to go through the prayer list. You are not trying to understand anything. You are not trying to do anything. You are just being open to God.
Finally transition out of that space slowly. If you put together a puzzle then take it apart piece by piece and put it away. Put away your colors and the book. Count the marbles back into the first jar. Here we are moving from the place we met with God and bring that peace into our normal life.
Reflect on your life. Make the time to develop rituals of communing with God.
Turn the mazes into Labyrinths.
Your life won’t be any less chaotic, but maybe it will be clearer.