We may be re-energized by a brisk walk or a exhilarated by a bike ride, but we also require the quiet introspection that comes from solitude, reflection or prayer, from placing ourselves before the world like an open lens and allowing ourselves to be imprinted by it all, like photographic plates or film, by what the world is showing us.
“Here I am,” is perhaps the most authentic response we can make to God. “Here I am” is awareness of the present and of the fact that I am in the presence of something great and beyond myself. “Here I am” is the beginning of my day, the busy-ness in the midst of my day, and the end of the day when my head hits the pillow and I briefly try to recall when I might have experienced God.
Today, even as I think of ways I can improve my health in the coming year, I recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi who said, “I am who I am in the eyes of God—nothing more and nothing less.”
No blue sky today, I thought. But then I looked, perhaps for the first time that day, at the green. The green of the grass and the trees exploded into my vision and I was taken aback by the utter beauty and contrast of the wet green against the coldness of the rest of the landscape. I woke up, it seems. It’s not drab, I thought, it’s just God telling me to remember that beauty lies all around us, all the time, if we’ll only wake up and pay attention.
This “transfer of life” that takes place in the presence of real beauty is perhaps why we gasp, as if we’re being re-born and sucking in air for the first time. It’s why so many of us find God in nature, in wind-blown places where the spirit wanders as it pleases and finally comes to rest on our lips and helps us pray, help us whisper that “thank you.”
We can walk the paths of our lives and feel like the remains of someone else’s life, not realizing that we are actually choice spots of radiant beauty, vantage points from which others might someday be able to pass en route to glimpsing the glory of God just beyond us.
Like taking a walk on a serpentine path on which you cannot see the way ahead or know for sure where it ends, our lives of prayer immerse us in the mystery of God and reveal aspects of the divine that we cannot fathom from the place we began.
The call of the labyrinth, like the call of God, is to quiet our minds, to trust our steps and to move ever forward to the center, the unmoving mover of all.
Wisdom lies in our lived and contemplated experiences of our own unique journeys. Wisdom comes in reflection, in the integration of the multitude of our sacred moments with all that we have read and heard.
We need to take time to unplug from the stimuli of our lives, to take off our shoes and approach God as if the very ground we walk upon is holy.