This past Saturday was World Labyrinth Day. I know…you might be shocked you didn’t know before. In all honesty, they need a little better PR and a lot more confidence. Their very web page invites you to join hundreds of others around the world. Assuming it is indeed worldwide, go for broke and at least say thousands. I digress.
In what has become my typical style of travel, I had a little person with me. In this case, my 11 month old. We had a little time before the morning board meeting was to begin and our lovely babysitter would occupy his time. He was fed, happy and snuggled into me for a morning rest. I walked to the labyrinth on property at Scarritt-Bennett. It was a holy moment of getting to walk with my son, heartbeat to heartbeat, my breath mingling with his. I prayed. I prayed for him and with him. I thanked God for these few holy moments appreciating all that he is to me. It was me, my son and God and it was precious. It was a long, lingering walk and I drank in every moment of it, cognizant he would only be able to be held like this for just a little while longer. I planned to sit and bask in the presence of God and intimacy with my son as we entered the center.
And then the baby exploded. The moment my cadence paused, something triggered in his tiny little body and there was no turning back. He was loud. Really loud, arched back screeching! I tried bouncing, rocking, singing and even thought for about half a second of just walking back out the labyrinth hoping to recreate the tender quiet we had when we entered. No such luck. I looked around and we were clearly disturbing the peace.
I broke the golden rule of the labyrinth. The one that says live the process. Slow your pace. Depart as intentionally as you entered. And most of all, under no circumstances are you to give into the temptation to short cut or skip a path. I did it. I boldy walked across every line and made it out alive. I had done the best I could and realized getting half way through was…my best.
One of the most common questions I get now is how to balance being a parent and in ministry. It is so easy to look at others, seemingly crowds of others able to give more and do more than I am with kids in tow. I recognize there are times when I am passed over due to the assumption that I will say no because of kids. I am also grateful for those who accept me offering the very best I can, even when it is less than I hoped as I try to take care of my children while being a steward of the calling God has placed in my life.
I think of Mark 12:41-44 [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Her gift was not the most spectacular, but it was all she could offer. My home is always a little messy, and always open to others. We host people weekly. If it is a choice between being really put together and getting somewhere, chances are we won’t be quite put together but we will be fully present. We travel as a family. We work to find ways for them, even in their most tender years to be included in a ministry of their own. Giving out of what they have. All of my children have been on a mission trip. Each has been to camp multiple times. My sweet children fall asleep in corners of rooms where I am teaching or preaching or they sit coloring in random coffee shops so that I may meet and pray with people. I definitely move a little slower and that is just fine. I miss out on late night hang out times when at conferences tucking babies in bed instead. Often I get interrupted and that is part of being community and including little people. If I don’t include them, who will? And how will they learn what it means to align your life, your whole life around Jesus if I never let them be with me while I serve?
Too often I hear of wonderful people giving up on friends, life and most of all ministry when children are added to the equation. Find the rhythm that works for you. If you can make it all the way through the labyrinth in a peaceful zen like manner, good for you. If you have to run away before you even make it to the center, or if you are just able to walk by the labyrinth and know one day you will re-enter, good for you too. Wherever you land on this spectrum, give yourself the same grace God has already extended. Jesus said it well, you give the most when you give all you have. Don’t worry if it’s not the same as others or even the same as what you used to be able to do.
Parenting is not the end of ministry. The path in the labyrinth just gets altered a little.