Monday, May 06, 2013

Silent Retreat Day - Tent Pegs and a Ball of String

I have to admit to being just a little disappointed this morning.  I had hoped to see a labyrinth out at Cawdor Castle, thinking they had just recently built it.  There was a picture of it on the wall outside the ticket booth.  It turned out to be the maze that has always been there, out of bounds because it’s made from holly bushes and not designed for the tramping of hundreds of visitors’ feet. 

Labyrinths and mazes are not the same thing!  The words should not be interchangeable.  A labyrinth has one way in and one path with all its twists and turns.  It’s a path to walk, not a mystery to solve.  A maze has many entrances and many solutions. 

“You enter a maze to lose yourself.  You enter a labyrinth to find yourself” so it has been said.
One of the activities on the silent day retreat at Kilravok Castle was a labyrinth.  It had been constructed with tent pegs and string into an elaborate path with lots of turns.  It is an effective way of slowing down in life and taking time to stop, think and reflect at each turn.  Too often life is lived at break-neck speed.  If we were all little cars on the road of life, I imagine we would be screaming around corners at ninety miles an hour. 

The man that made the labyrinth talked about his experience of one.  He left all his belongings outside when he entered.  Having nothing to give once he got to the centre of the labyrinth he felt that God was asking him simply to give himself.

It sounds very new age, and not my scene – but then all that day I had been doing things that were not my scene.  Sometimes there are things that you do simply because it may be the only chance you get to do it.  If it just turned out to be a slow walk around a hundred corners then so be it. 

I didn’t enter the labyrinth empty handed although I emptied my pockets of my coat.  The weather wasn’t warm enough to leave the coat on the bench.  I took in a notebook and a pen.  The writer in me didn’t demand a written blow by blow account of what I thought about or prayed about at every turn of the path but refused to leave them behind. 

I had been reading a book earlier on in the day about the need to silence the soul so that the spirit could follow God’s Holy Spirit unhindered.  I stopped at each turn for a moment or two and stilled myself.  I wanted my mind not to do the work, but allow my spirit to listen and to hear what God was saying.

I wish I could say that it was just a slow walk around a hundred corners – but it wasn’t.  It was a path made of tent pegs and string and yet it was so much more.  In my mind’s eye there were walls.  As much as I could see other people walking in other parts of the garden, it was as if I was alone.  If I have doubts about whether I hear God or not, it’s usually because I have an active imagination.  I have a hard time sometimes distinguishing between my inner chatterbox and God’s voice.  Not this time.  My inner chatterbox was silenced. 

God talked a lot about me as a writer.  He called me His storyteller.  He told me that there is a story I want to tell that isn’t my story but someone else’s story.  My story is my own.  It is not cobbled together from second hand experiences that other people have had. My story is MY STORY.  It is a story that is unique to me.  That’s the story He wants to read.

He told me that my vocabulary needs to be extended.  There are too many words that I avoid using.  There are many scenes that I avoid writing because I avoid living them, or having lived them they hurt a lot and iu would rather not display my scars.

He talked about His Living Word in me.  There is power in words.  Words brought creation into being.  Words spoken on the cross brought curses to an end.  He has given me His gift of words and with it the power to bring some things into being and bring other things to an end.

Coming to the end of the journey, I happened to see two leaves caught in a breeze.  They spun about the lawn, skipping and turning, swirling and dancing.  It was as if one leaf was chasing the other.  It was a joyful chase.   

My walk with God doesn’t often include delightful chases.  Skipping and dancing are not words that I would use.  But I am extending my vocabulary.

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