Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Urban Labyrinth

A monk named Dunstan once taught me the value of manual labor in a life of prayer. Thinking he was silly at worst, misguided yet cute at best, my mind was set on the academy. My nascent life of devotion to theological studies, writing papers, and an eye for more of the same filled my days. Prayer is good, yet that life was enabled by others and had routine during my studies in chapel services and spiritual formation groups. Labor was something that school would allow me to avoid. I watched my parents work hard. Their work is honorable, but they and I wanted to at least have choices for vocation.

A prayerful life can be challenging to carve as life changes, and labor brought me back to something centered. Labor is not shameful. Labor becomes depressing when labor is demeaning or abusive, but it is good for my soul. Ministry is not full time compensation or work for me, far from my imagination nearly 20 years ago.

I deliver bagels for approximately four hours in the transition from darkness to light Monday through Friday. Delivering bagels is not strenuous labor. I bag and lift, drive and deliver to schools, hospitals, coffee shops, and delis. But through this simple labor, I help feed the county by driving an urban labyrinth through Lakewood, University Place, Tacoma, and Gig Harbor.  The labyrinth as a spiritual practice is a physical act of walking to gain perspective, the connection of soul, God, and surroundings. The labyrinth is a melding of mystery and form. While driving at 4am, I see the city in a way I had never seen it before. I am moved to pray more than by any worship service, trial in my life, or any other prayer activity.

Sometimes people challenge me about the pay, sleep issues, what this work does to my schedule. I find myself prepared to fight to keep this odd schedule. While reassessing my priorities, I have never studied, prayed, or worked like this. Other things will have to go, but not my labyrinth time. This urban labyrinth is where I see God and the humanity that God creates.

1 comment:

  1. In the yogic tradition, you'd be considered as being on the path of karma yoga: seeking and finding the divine through work and service. This is a practice that meshes well with bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion) and jnana yoga (the way of study and knowledge).

    In my own life I always feel closer to God when I'm engaged in labor. While I'm grateful for my education and training and intellect, it doesn't always serve my heart. Thanks for the reminder.