Today, we took the boys walking around the ranch where we are staying this week. We found ourselves walking through an area we hadn’t been last year. It had rained so all the green seemed brighter than usual. The green leaves of the trees hung low with the weight of the rain water, dangling ever so close to the river, which was itself several different remarkable shades of green due to the beautiful varieties of moss and plants just below the surface. The wood chips that marked the walkway were also a brighter reddish brown than they would have been dry. All together, it felt like walking through a fairy tale land.
We saw a sign for a labyrinth and decided to search it out. The boys were hoping for a maze, a la David Bowie. We did our best to dissuade them of the notion, explaining that it’s a path used for prayer and contemplation. They still ran ahead in excited anticipation. When we reached it, they yelled “cool!” and headed in.
We looked at each other and smiled. I tried to read the instructions to the boys but I knew this walk through a labyrinth would not be as peaceful or spiritual as times past. Nevertheless, I started my walk, the last and the slowest of the four. I centered my mind on God and tried to block out the raucous traveling of my progeny. I asked God to show me how to be a better parent. To be more patient, especially on this trip. To find ways to handle the wild hyperactivity more successfully, without yells or threats or attempted intimidation.
I couldn’t block the boys from my attention, however. I soon noticed that they were sticking out their hands for a light hand slap as they passed each other on the winding paths. Completely missing the point, I thought. Introspection is the name of the game here. And then I noticed my husband approaching me on an adjacent path. We looked at each other and smiled. And stuck our hands out, mimicking our little boys.
The boys noticed. At that point, any person who passed any other person quietly put out their hand for the touch. It didn’t lessen the experience one bit. In fact, it deepened it considerably as I was drawn into my boys’ world. They entered the center of the labyrinth much sooner than I did, of course. And what they did next made my smile go all the way down to the tips of my toes and back.
I had explained that this was a means of prayer and meditation. So when Daryl made it to the center, he sat down with crossed legs. He put his hands palms up on his knees, lightly pressing the thumbs to the index fingers, and started humming “Ohmmmmm…. Ohmmmmm… Ohmmmmm”
Without questioning, Hal sat down behind him and did it too.
Now, I know they were just having fun. I don’t think their trip through the labyrinth deepened their spirituality or anything significant like that. But it had a profound effect on me. God showed me my boys being their usual selves in an environment in which I should have been extremely put-out at their lack of reverence yet couldn’t be precisely because of that environment. He answered my prayer by showing me how to extend grace and patience to my boys, by drawing me into their play, by sharing their joy.