I had never heard even heard of a "prayer labyrinth" until I started coming to family summer day camp with my children nearly a decade ago. This inspirational tool, used by Christians of various denominations, consists of a path that doubles back on itself, leading to the center in a way that is not obvious. As one strolls this path, the turns and curves, sometimes closer to the center (representing God) and sometimes farther from the center, remind us of our life journey. Our focus must be intentional or we find ourselves confused and disoriented.
Regardless, we must start our journey on this labyrinth in one specific spot or this spiritual exercise with God will be pointless. Everything we seek to accomplish in this time of meditation is otherwise moot.
There was just such a labyrinth at the retreat center where we held our Refresh mother's event this year.
Recalling this path brings to mind an actual path in my life that holds a comparable truth: My children's spiritual formation.
See if any of these questions resonate with you. I often wonder:
- Why do my children worry so much?
- When will they learn to trust God?
- Why do they foster such bitterness in their hearts?
- Why do they let the bad things in life outweigh all the blessings God has poured over them?
- Why are they so ungrateful?
- What will it take for them to trade their demands and expectations in for God's better plan?
Although it may seem overly simplistic, the "Start Here" sign is pointing at ME. It is said that faith is more caught than taught, so expecting my children to leap their spiritual hurdles without seeing it modeled in their mother first is pure foolishness. If I want them to trust God, then they must see me trusting God. If I want them to let go of grudges, bitterness, and anger, I must first let go of mine. If I want them to be emptied of avarice and entitlement, they must hear gratitude and humility continually pouring off my lips.
Perhaps this is why I became so dedicated to other parents when God called me into ministry. I have always believed that the spiritual health of the family begins with the parents. What children learn at Vacation Bible School or Christian Camp is only temporary if it is not lived out in the daily lives of mom or dad.
Beyond children, when a husband or wife starts with getting their own house in order, they are often an inspiration to their spouse. I cannot begin to count the number of people I know who began with change in themselves, which in turn motivated their spouse. When a husband or a wife benefits from a pleasant, inexplicable transformation in their partner, they can't help but probe into it further. (See 1 Peter 3:1-2)
Getting that "plank" out of our own lives first gives us credibility with everyone. When our children, spouses, and even friends and neighbors see us living what we claim to believe, we become a reliable source of Truth to them. Instead of our encouragement being mere platitudes, those around us suddenly take heart and are lifted up. When we believe in the value and abilities of others, they suddenly begin believing in themselves as well. We become dependable leaders on the path towards Christ when we are willing to confront the dirty sin in our own hearts. We make it safe for others to face that which they would rather avoid when they see that we have done it and not only survived, but thrived.
As I have been known to say in my home, The uglier I am willing to admit I am, the more beautiful Jesus looks. There's no better place to start when we are trying to positively influence those around us, especially the family we love.
PRAY: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24, KJV)
~ Barb Dittrich