My kids’ spiritual lives feel somewhat mysterious to me. Unlike most things, it’s a part of their development that I can’t measure or quantify. I can easily find out how much they weigh or how tall they are; I can gauge their understanding of letters and numbers when we read books together or do worksheets at the table.
But what is happening inside them on a spiritual level? That’s harder to see.
I suppose I could grill them about their religious knowledge, 1950s Baltimore-Catechism style. But that wouldn’t give me the answers I really want, like how much they think about God or Jesus, or whether they see them as beautiful positive attractive forces in their lives. That’s what matters to me, when all is said and done.
To find out, I can only really create the opportunity for conversation and see what happens. Or I can take them somewhere that invites contemplation and sharing, like the labyrinth.
I wrote about this labyrinth back in January. It’s at a beautiful retreat center, and we spent an afternoon there as a family right before Christmas. It took the boys a while to realize that it was not a racetrack, but once they did, we had a lovely experience together.
So for my birthday a few weeks ago, I felt a desire to return to the retreat center. This time, it was a warm day with signs of spring all around in the flowering daffodils, in the little snowdrops lining the paths.
And this time, with a little bit of experience under their belts, the boys moved slowly through the labyrinth. We all walked it together, in a line, moving toward the rock in the center. There was blue sky and the scent of damp earth and all the things I associate with springtime.
As we got near the rock in the center, Scott asked the boys, “So who is your rock?”
“Jesus,” said Matthew promptly. “And God.”
“Mary,” said little brother Luke.
And once we reached the rock, Matthew did something I hadn’t expected. He took a small stick and began to write in the sand.
As we watched, he added more names. (Luke, inspired by his brother, started writing his own name on the other side of the circle and decorating it with smiley faces.)
I stood there watching my little boys kneeling in the sand, earnestly writing with their sticks. It was a moment of grace for me because I was witnessing their prayer, even if they themselves wouldn’t have called it that. I was glimpsing the spiritual lives of my kids, seeing their mindfulness and gratitude, even though they themselves wouldn’t use those terms. And in those minutes that they scratched the names of their rocks into the sand, the labyrinth felt like holy ground.
It was a birthday present I didn’t expect, this sudden peek into their little souls. And it’s one I’ll cherish for a very long time.