I woke up before the sun this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. I stayed in bed for another hour before finally deciding to get up and start my day. I was up before the sun. That rarely happens. Usually I let the sun gently wake me up. The sun is one of my rhythms of life – the sun rises, I rise; the sun sets, I set. Summers in Indiana (where we are on the edge of Eastern Standard Time) mean I’m up early and up late. As fall creeps in, I start getting tired earlier than I did just a few weeks earlier. In winter I have to set a morning alarm since the sun isn’t there to slowly wake me up (well, it is, just not early for me to get to work on time!).
So this morning I received a beautiful gift – I watched the sun rise over the serene, majestic landscape of New Mexico. I’m not always that great at just sitting, so I decided to start with the Heart Labyrinth, watching the sun rise as I walked. I’ve walked a few labyrinths in the past, so I know about slow walking, mindfulness, taking in and letting go. Yesterday when we walked the labyrinth as a group I felt a little out of place. The others seemed so serene and intentional while walking. I was struggling to keep my mind still, but doing the best I could. I suspect some of them may have struggled too – or not, it really doesn’t matter. This morning as I walked I let my breath slow down, I let my eyes gaze upon the mountains sometimes, the path at others. When my mind wandered, I came back to my breathing. I didn’t experience any spiritual awakening or find the answer to all my questions when I reached the middle, but I was calm and aware. I think that was enough.
As I walked, I watched the sun rise. Well, not the sun, exactly. It was rising behind a ridge, I could see the rays shining but I couldn’t see the sun itself. However, if I looked in the other direction, I saw the light of the sun slowly illuminating the mountain in the west – the same mountain that the sun set behind last night. I couldn’t see the sun, but I knew it was there.
I didn’t want to stop walking, so I wandered into other areas of the landscape. I followed paths created by flash floods. I stepped in and out of brush and flowers. I was walking toward the sun and every now and then I’d turn to see how the land behind me had changed with more light sweeping across the range. I had no agenda, no plan. I just walked. I found myself thinking, “Thank you Jesus.” I felt overcome by gratitude of the beauty all around me – the awe, the wonder. Who else had walked on this red earth? I felt connected to something much bigger than myself. So why was I thanking Jesus?
Jesus and I have a relationship that allows for questions and doubts and wonder. I rarely talk to others about my thoughts on Jesus because when I have I was shut down – I was wrong, not Christian enough. So, Jesus and I work through it together, alone. In the past I didn’t call on Jesus much. He didn’t make sense to me, and honestly, there are times that he still doesn’t. I preferred ‘God’ or ‘Spirit.’ Lately, though, the name Jesus rolls off my tongue a little easier. Maybe it’s because I’m reading my way through the Gospels (John’s Jesus is very perplexing!), maybe it’s because I need a more personal connection these days.
The last year has been a real struggle. Jesus understands struggle, just like you probably understand struggle too. When we go through something hard, we want to be surrounded by other people who have gone through something hard. Jesus gets it. He understands the tough questions that cause you to doubt yourself, he understands dissenters, he knows pain and suffering. So when I approached an altar in the middle of my walk, in the middle of all this beauty, all I could say was “thank you Jesus.” Thank you for showing up when I least expect it. Thank you for walking alongside me. Thank you for understanding that this human gig is hard. Thank you for not knocking me down, but instead, reaching out your hand to slowly help me back on my feet.
God, Spirit, Jesus, Creator, Universe, Divine, Holy – I don’t care what word you use or what image comes to mind. I believe there is something that unites us all – humans, animals, trees, rocks – something deep within all of us that says, “You are in this together, I am in this with you.” Something, that when you encounter it, you know you are in the presence of the Holy and all the words you can find, inadequate as they may be, are Thank You.