“Our memories are ultimately only fragments, broken by our forgetting, pieces of a past we are not always even sure is our own. And they remain fragments – a broken story – until they are made whole by prayer. In prayer, God mends the fragments into the art of a life, like stained glass, like a quilt, like cobblestone bricks on a circling path.” – Travis Scholl, Walking the Labyrinth
The art of a life.
What a beautiful and life giving image! I don’t know about you, but I can get so caught up in doing all the tasks on my list on a given day that by the end I can’t make sense of it. It’s as if I had paint, clay, ballet shoes, and a piano and just threw everything around without much thought. The materials were good, but the end product doesn’t fit together.
Just this past week several of my days included setting up appointments, running to the store for last minute meal preparations, meeting with students, getting lost in the Web, writing blog posts, cleaning the house, sending off thank-you notes, filling out forms, making dinner, and, finally, sitting in front of the television. In the end I wondered why I’m doing any of it, except to make it to the next day. It seems to be a mess with little meaning.
Many of these activities have potential to be part of something more cohesive – a welcome home for guests, a book for fellow pilgrims, a thriving ministry for students and faculty. The pieces are there. Yet I realize there are often too many pieces for a single picture, or even the wrong pieces. Can a writing life really fit with the schedule of a single woman trying to set up a home, grieve the loss of a mother, build new connections with family, and serve graduate students and faculty? Oh, and then there are the volunteering I’ve agreed to do; the travels I’ve taken and plan to take; the unwritten articles and the untaught classes; the many museums I want to visit; and the meals with friends and walks outside. How can all of these things fit together?
In the end I see a lot of ragged edges and mismatched pieces as I try to create a whole. Maybe what I need is to find a different place to volunteer or a new writing project. Or, a new community of friends who would challenge me just a bit more. But all my efforts usually end up with the same result: a frustrating collage of activities that doesn’t make sense even to me.
Into this whirlwind, Travis Scholl’s words speak peace. Reading his record of walking a labyrinth during Lent reminds me that the meaning of my life is not in my hands. Not in any of our hands. Life comes together as I look beyond myself, especially as I seek God in prayer, learning to see in the way he sees. Through this practice I can look back and realize how these disparate activities fit together into a work of art I could never have intentionally made myself.
After the fact, and through God’s eyes, I can see how what I thought was just another meeting turned into a conversation on education that eventually led to a job offer and to the writing of a book. I can also see how each time I vacuum I am becoming more attuned to the moment and place in which I live, relishing the small things. Through prayer my vision changes and I can tell the story of the past and look forward to the one that is ahead.
I can pick up the materials God has set before me each day, work with them, enjoy them, and leave the story up to him.