Last week Andrew and I went to
Darlington for the Testimony service of a friend of ours, who is a Methodist minister, being ordained later this month. The preacher, at one point said that in ministry there are times that are good, times that are no so good, and times where you just want to run away and give it all up.
Being honest, I would say that up to a few weeks ago, I was in that third category! The final straw I think for me came a few Sunday’s ago, here at Lidgett Grove when we had a baptism in the morning service; whilst I an usually quite laid back about these things … I found myself getting more and more annoyed with the father of the baby, who not only turned up 10 minutes late but talked and laughed all the way through the service. It was when the thought of doing violence towards him, went through my head that I knew I needed a break! I was feeling drained, both physically and spiritually – my love for God, the world, the church and in fact myself was at an all time low, and I really did just want to escape.
Fortunately the very next day I headed off to
, to go on retreat to Launde Abbey on the Tuesday. It is in a beautiful area in Leicestershire, and has extensive grounds. My plan was to find some time for physical rest but also spend time with God and get the spiritual rest needed to kick start my relationship with him. There is plenty at the Abbey to help you do this, for the staff have worked hard to create areas in the gardens which will help people rest and relax but also to reflect on their life and relationship with others and God. Boston
One of those areas is a fairly new addition – a labyrinth. Before you enter the labyrinth there is a sign which included words from psalm 111 which says great are the works of the Lord, who is like God – creator, Lord. In awe we worship you. Although I had been in the labyrinth before, something really struck with me, and I really did feel that the further I went in, the closer to God I got. I was determined to get into the middle, but noticed on the way, that there were lots of things to distract me; there was piles of dead leaves and areas that looked that wild; there were stones and tree roots that you could trip over, there were gaps in the stone path outlines where you could escape if things got too difficult, but there was also some beautiful things like flowers to stop at slowing down the journey.
But I was determined to get to the middle, and apart from taking photo’s, managed to avoid the distractions; when I got to the middle there was a large stone plinth with a cross made out of smaller stones on top of it – a reminder for me that Jesus needs be at the centre of my relationship with God. It was really difficult to leave the labyrinth for I felt closer to God than I had in a long time, but it was essential otherwise I’ll still be there! But as I left that place, there was a reminder at the exit in the words of another psalm – I will bless the lord of all times – and that God’s will is goodness, and loving kindness, and good are his paths he leads us on.
We are all on a journey, a journey to become closer to God, and a journey on the paths that he leads us on. At times though there are also things that distract us on the journey, for being a Christian isn’t always easy. Like the flowers growing in the labyrinth, there will be times that are good, like the dead leaves and tree roots, there will be things that aren’t so good and things that will trip us up, and then there will be times that we just want to escape!
I’m sure the disciples in the reading we heard earlier (Mark 16: 15 - 20) could say the same about their journey with Jesus. And here they were at a time where they probably wanted to escape and leave everything behind them – for Jesus was leaving them again … but before he left Jesus gave them instructions about the path God was leading them on. Jesus told them to go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Elsewhere in the gospels we are told that they wouldn’t have to do it on their own, for the Holy Spirit would come to them and give them the power they needed – but having the holy spirit is not an excuse for us to do nothing or to forget that in all we do, we need to work on our relationship with God, and allow Jesus to be the centre of all we do.
Before going on retreat, I had got caught up with the stresses and busyness of life and ministry, that although in fact I needed spend more time with God, I allowed things to distract me from being in God’s presence, but the labyrinth and a later visit to a very small chapel at Launde Abbey, where God’s presence hit me as I walked through the door, helped me start to get back on track.
I wonder what distractions there are in your life that affects your relationship with God. There are so many things that can distract us and for a few moments now, in a time of silence, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to reflect on those distractions, and ask God to help you pass them by as you travel together on the paths he leads you on.
The photo's below are of the labryrinth