From Mark’s Gospel ….
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
(From the Daily Office Readings – Mark 10:23-27 – March 29, 2012)
Threading a needle…. That used to be a simple task for me. I was very, very near-sighted. I could barely see a school bus twenty feet away without my pop-bottle-bottom spectacles. But I could thread a needle! I could do anything that required close-up detail work; I had marvelous up-close vision. Then one day in 1995 (I think it was 1995) my mother saw my glasses. “Good Heavens! Are your eyes that bad?” – “Yes, Mother, they always have been.” – “Why don’t you have that Lasik surgery?” – “Because I can’t afford it, Mother.” – “You get it done. I’ll pay for it.” ~ (Side comment: My mother was a depression child born in 1919. As a result of spending her formative pre-teen and teen years in the years of the Great Depression, she was one of the most tightfisted people I’ve ever known when it came to spending money on herself or her spouse, my step-father. She would not spend a dime on her own healthcare, even when she felt badly. But she was generous to a fault with her children, her grandchildren, her friends, and her church. If she’d been less generous to us and more generous to herself, she might still be alive. But that’s another story.) ~ So I talked with my ophthalmologist, who had earlier been quite negative about PK and RK and other forms of keratotomy, and he thought Lasik would be a good option. He referred me to a surgeon. A couple of weeks later, I was able to do everything without glasses … everything except thread a needle. Now I needed a pair of dime-store “cheaters” to do what had once been easy, and even though I squinted and used those magnifying lenses I had difficulty. Getting anything through the eye of a needle, much less a camel, is no mean task! ~ About thirty years before that surgery, I visited the Cathedral at Chartres on my first trip to Europe. I was 16 years old at the time. I walked the labyrinth there. Since that first time I’ve walked many replicas of that deceptively simple path and other forms of labyrinth. Threading one’s way through the labyrinthine path requires concentration (especially in a cathedral full of tourists, but really at any time, even when completely alone). It is a careful endeavor not unlike threading a needle; one might even say it is a soulful endeavor. ~ Perhaps the most famous labyrinth in history or myth is the one built on Crete to house the Minotaur. King Minos’s daughter Ariadne fell in love with Theseus, an Athenian who was to be a sacrificial victim of the Minotaur. She gave Theseus a ball of thread to unwind as he made his way through the labyrinth, which showed him the path to by which he could leave once he had done battle with the beast (assuming he killed it, which he did). It was her thread of love which helped Theseus thread his way through the labyrinth. ~ Our walk through a spiritual labyrinth is said represent our way through life. Victor Hugo once said, “He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life.” I’m not so sure that’s true, however; plans are too often subject to change! Like the odd turnings of the Chartres labyrinth, we meet with obstacles which change our direction; when we seem to be headed for our goal, suddenly the way changes; even though we squint and use magnifying glasses, the way through is unclear. We may not be able to follow our plans and we may not see the way ahead, but we are threaded through the unexpected and unknown path of life if we trust and rely on God’s guidance. Like Ariadne’s thread of love, God’s love threads us through life’s labyrinthine ways. Following God’s guidance is a careful, soulful endeavor, but “with God all things are possible.”
(The labyrinth pictured here is on the grounds of the Ariadne Retreat Center in Georgetown, California.)