Monday, May 14, 2007

Light and Labyrinth

Sometimes I feel so distressed by the problems in the world. This past week, for instance, I was speaking to someone who's involved in a difficult situation, where there is deep pain involved, even danger. In a way, we were both wishing for God to bring some kind of fairy-godmother magic wand. A poof. A sprinkle of dust. A miraculous reversal.

But that is not how it's going. There is movement, but it's slow. And it doesn't feel like enough.

How to explain this? Especially to some of the other players involved, who are young and tentative-of-faith, and really wishing for the magic wand?

In the midst of the conversation, I began to try to explain it to myself (not young, supposedly not tentative-of-faith). Suddenly, a small vision emerged. The minotaur's labyrinth. It is long and twisting, deep and dark. A monster within.

I found myself saying, "Sometimes it takes years for us to get into the labyrinth. Why shouldn't it take time to come out? Even if, today, the 'monster' was magically slain and a candle appeared there in the depths, one would still have to do the work of climbing out... back through the darkness, the twisting tunnels."

And though I was not completely comforted by this insight, I felt a measure of understanding. Healing takes time. There is often mystery and an unclear sense of direction.

As if to seal the thought, my church group was discussing the book of Revelation on Sunday. And for the first time I noticed a sense of process and mystery even at the end...

"The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." (Rev 22:2) "They shall beat their swords into plowshares..." (Isaiah 2:4) "You shall be called repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in." (Is 58:12)

Yes, God can make all things new. But we also have some work to do. And the way and the time-frame aren't always clear.

Candle photo by Stefani M. Rossi Used with permission.

Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


23 Degrees' Learning Healing

Aegialia's Climbing to the Light

Steph's What If

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Blogger kirsten said...

Oh what a beautiful and insightful post. Sometimes I feel the same, wondering how long the trek is toward peace, understanding, and healing.

A magic wand would be nice. But wouldn't that negate (at least somewhat) our need to trust and depend utterly on the One who sees all and is over all?

I don't like this; I like having clarity and direction and predictable outcomes. But in the same sense, it is good to know that we know the One who sees the outcome already, and is wanting to use us to get there.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

There is gift in waiting, no? I am seeing glimpses of this truth in my life and it is freeing when I see them.
But, not easy.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Aimee said...

We need to know that God loves and accepts us "in process" and in our unhealed places. So many times we think we need to hurry up and get better so that we can "feel" acceptable. If we could just taste His love for us in the bad moments, then we wouldn't be so quick to run to get out of it all.
It's so tough walking by faith.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Your illustration sounds brilliant!

I guess it’s tough, because we know that God is ABLE to whisk us right out of the trouble, if He so chooses. We may even have seen Him do a fast-track or short-cut in another person’s life. How can we not want Him to do it for us every time, rather than expecting the slower labyrinth exodus? Oh, how we need the Holy Spirit to give us the faith and patience we need for those times!

3:14 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

LL-This morning I read chapter 9 in Invitation to Solitude & Silence (Ruth Haley Barton) on facing ourselves and waiting. In her ongoing description of 1 Kings 19, she's at the point where Elijah is waiting for God at the mouth of the cave. She likens his whole process there to the inner (and maybe sometimes outer) chaos and termoil that we often have to go through to meet God and to heal. I see a connection there to your labyrinth metaphor.

Our small group is studying Revelation now too. : )

3:29 PM  
Blogger Miriam said...

Mmm...LL - this spoke to me today, and broght tears to my eyes. Thank you. And, I recently walked a labyrinth and had planned to write about it for my next post (if I ever find the time to write).

The verse about the leaves of the tree of life has been one I've frequently pondered and prayed about in this season as I seek healing in my own life.

4:36 PM  
Blogger christianne said...

This was such a wonderful, insightful post. Everyone here has voiced such beautiful thoughts in response. I don't have much to add. All I can say is that I'm learning there is beauty in the darkness. Much of it has to do with learning my worth has nothing to do with my circumstances or what I am capable, in my own strength, of giving or receiving at a particular point in time.

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. That sounds incredibly painful. I'm glad she has someone like you to hold her hand and cry with her through this.

5:46 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Kirsten... I think what makes it difficult is when it seems like the "monster" is winning. I certainly can hear the cry of David, "why do the wicked prosper?" and relate to his despair.

Andrea... these kind of gifts are sometimes hard to see until much after the fact. And in the midst of them, they sometimes feel like curses. Also, the sin of another is not really a gift, I think. Though God can redeem anything.

Aimee... yes, the feelings in the meantime are a source of much difficulty!

Craver... I often think that the blind man who had to walk with mud on his eyes may have envied the man who did the "stand up, take your mat and walk." Yes, situations are SO different, and who knows why? I love your inclusion of the word exodus.

Miriam... I'm glad you were touched, and if you post on it, I will be honored to read your own journey.

A Musing... oh, facing ourselves! Now that's not always an easy wait.

Christianne... that understanding of grace sometimes takes years to grow into. I know it was so in my own life, and I believe it will be so in the lives of the ones I write of here today.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Jennwith2ns said...

Thank you for that. The analogy, while not, as you said, necessarily comforting, does have a certain "graspability," even in its mystery.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...


I know the feeling of wanting a magic wand to wish all our ills away.

It can seem repetitive to keep saying this but we live in a fallen world and the pain we encounter is a reminder of its fallen state. In times like the one your friend is experiencing, I find two thoughts comforting.

First, the promise that God will work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

This assures us that even the pain in our lives will work for our good according to God's sovereign will.

Second, He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us.

This assures us that He who on the cross, experienced pain on our behalf is faithful to walk with us through our pain.

And, as you mentioned in your post, - a better day is coming.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Good thoughts here, L.L. I too believe that just as we get into some vices over time, it can take time to extract ourselves out of them, though we would well wish otherwise.

Now it does seem like God let Job and other saints in Scripture go through quite alot before they got out, though they were even "righteous" the entire time.

We know in the end, because of Christ's death and resurrection all is good and that we begin to live that out now.

Good thought too about Revelation. A new one for me.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Halfmom said...

Yes, literally a Mack truck - and its trailer. I'd always heard horse trainers say they needed to give a horse an "attitude adjustment with a two-by-four" because they were so stubborn - so apparently, that's what it takes for some of us - and so be it. It just takes whatever it takes.

Long way in, long way out? I think it depends on how dirty the silver and gold are as to how many time the smelter has to heat it and draw off the dross. Jumping out of the fire is not known to help either and I think this is what gets us into the most trouble. We think we weren't created to suffer and should do whatever we can to abrogate it in our own lives and in the lives of those we love. In reality, we are just getting in the way of the Holy Spirit doing His work, the heating up the fire.

Wonderful post – I look forward to reading what you write.

11:06 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

Oh yes, LL. Sometimes it seems like the monster is winning. On retreat, I meditated for a time on Psalm 37 where David laments over how the wicked flourish and prosper. Pat answers are cold comfort, and it is hard to trust in a God who is watching this happening and as far as we can see, is sitting idly by when He could just fix it.

I cannot feel your friend's pain or know her fight. Makes me think of Wilberforce too & the long struggle to see slavery end. I am praying.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's certainly hard. I remember when I was young, I would play those video games where you would have to go down into some tunnel or dungeon and fight battles along the way and I would get so frustrated because I could just walk all the way through without being bothered. I think those battles are important because we learn from them.

8:28 AM  
Blogger spaghettipie said...

I loved your illustration, and it made me think of something I read in Streams in the Desert a month ago.

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs (Matt 10:27)

"Our Lord is constantly taking us into the dark in order to tell us something...It is there He tells us His secrets - great and wonderful, eternal and infinite. He causes our eyes, blinded by the glare of things on earth, to behold the heavenly constellations. And our ears suddenly detect even the whisper of His voice, which has been so often drowned out by the turmoil of earth's loud cries. Yet these revelations always come with a corresponding responsibility...Soon we will be summoned to take our position in the turmoil and the storms of life. And when that moment comes, we are to speak and proclaim what we have learned. This gives new meaning to suffering, the saddest part of which is often the apparent feeling of uselessness it causes."

3:09 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

wjiHi LL! Sorry for the long absence and my inability to play tag. So many pressures at work and home leave little time for blogging!

In our ministering to married couples in crisis, my wife and I see many men who seem to take comfort in the idea that they are in a "process" of understanding how it is that they have messed up their marriages. It's slow going. I'm on a journey. This is who I am. She knew who I was when she married me, etc. Some men never really own up to it.

I think in our grace saturated church culture we need to make the distinction between salvation (I do nothing) and producing the fruit of being saved (I do something).

Another aspect that I think is usually ignored is that many of my sins affect other people. So, while I may receive grace from God and I may forgive myself, it is impossible to "demand" grace or forgiveness or respect from others. When I try demand forgiveness, it minimizes whatever pain or harm I have inflicted on them in my sin. The tremendous work involved in repenting and creating a new track record with those people whom I have harmed in my sin is what takes time. They have good reason not to trust me until I show a consistent track record of bearing good fruit. How many seasons will that take? What if I slip up and fall back into my old patterns? I have to begin again to create something new. It's not impossible with God's help. But, even with God's light to guide me, it does take a consistent time and energy investment to work my way back out of that dark labyrinth. Peace, Kim

3:14 PM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

And this reminds me of Icarus and Daedalus. They created wings to fly out of the labyrinth when they were imprisoned there. Daedalus had created it in fact. His creation was used against him.

Instead of despairing he turned his creative powers to something more, um, uplifting.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL -- This was such a great post, and timely for us all, it would seem from the comments. As I was reading Craver's comments last night, it reminded me of the prayer that was running through my mind as I fell asleep last night: God is good, God is great. Ted blogged about this a few days ago as a prayer from his childhood. I found it remarkbly suited to the rhythm of breathing in and breathing out: God is good, (breathe in), God is great (breathe out). Or, God is willing, God is able. It situates me in the middle of God's purposes even when I'm struggling. And reminds me that these things He's given me to do are not in vain.

7:14 AM  
Blogger TUC said...

Thanks for this post. It makes me wonder how much time is wasted worrying about dead monsters...

2:05 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Savage Darlings... ah, what an insight. We worry about the monster, when we might rather spend our energies on surfacing from the labyrinth. So good to hear your thoughts.

2:34 PM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

Laura, some great imagery here, thank you. Halfmom made a comment about heating up silver to remove the dross. Someone shared with me that only when the silversmith sees his own reflection in the metal does he pull it from the flame.

I linked to you with this post:

1:27 AM  

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