I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Rachel Grenier’s reflection “Returning to the Path.”
When I sat down with my devotional this morning, I realized it had been a month since I had last cracked its cover. My days had been busy, and loud, and chaotic, weaving themselves into weeks, then a full month before I realized how long it had been since we had visited together.
Fortunately, God does not withhold from us in retribution for our departures – however frequent or extended. Instead, God welcomes us back with great joy and celebration. And much like the prodigal son, I too was rewarded for my return.
For the first time in a month, I allowed myself to sit quietly, face raised toward the sun, breeze cool upon my cheeks (a seemingly simple task made challenging by the ever-present and overly competitive to-do list flashing wildly through my mind).
Eyes closed and palms open and ready to receive, a surprising and beautiful image began to form in my mind. A wide, shimmering, golden ribbon unfurled in front of me, like the red carpet leading royalty to their place of honor. Like a pathway for me to follow. I watched as it rolled out of my driveway, down my street, and stretched into the distance, the end fading from sight.
Soon, though, I noticed the ribbon’s perfection was marred by a rat’s nest of black squiggles branching off in various points along the way. The lines would veer off and run in tangled circles – eventually returning to the path, but only after ugly, confusing, circuitous detours.
Right there, in the midst of my meditation, I laughed out loud as the realization hit me: The black squiggles were my own additions to the perfect path marked out for me! Lines drawn by my decisions to go in a different direction, or distractions that pulled me from where I was meant to go.
I composed myself and continued to sit patiently, enjoying the vision – and God’s sense of humor.
As I gazed at my golden pathway, others began to appear. Criss-crossing, creating a beautiful, shimmering, golden web. I followed my ribbon with my mind’s eye, noting all the times it intersected with another. The connectivity was startling, and I was struck by the visual depiction of the many opportunities we have to touch the lives of others – however brief our overlapping paths may be.
I felt a light tugging in my chest. In my mind, I looked down and saw that my ribbon was attached to my heart. Gently pulling me in the direction it led.
It was time to move.
“OK, God,” I said, wryly. “But I have to go the bathroom first.”
I opened my eyes, reluctant to leave my meditation but intrigued by where it might lead. I picked up my imaginary black marker and began to draw my detour as I used the restroom, brushed my teeth, put on some makeup, packed a lunch (who knows where this pathway may go … I might get hungry along the way!). All the while, my golden ribbon sat patiently and waited.
Finally, I climbed into my car and merged back onto my ribbon, following it out of my driveway, down the street, through my neighborhood. As I turned onto the main road, my breath caught in my throat, and goosebumps broke out all over my arms and legs.
I kid you not: A real, not-in-my-mind, but of-this-world golden pathway ran straight down the middle of my lane. A 3-foot-wide swath of gold-yellow, bright against the black asphalt.
“A paint truck must’ve sprung a leak,” my ever-logical left brain explained to my pounding heart. “It’s just a coincidence.”
“Be quiet,” I told it, hands firmly on the steering wheel. I followed the path at 35 MPH as it grew fainter and fainter, before disappearing completely.
And while I could no longer see it, I knew I was on the right road.
I knew I had been blessed with a rare experience, a brief but incredibly tangible encounter, designed to remind me that God is there, that the pathway laid out for me – for each of us – does exist, even when we can’t see it, even when we stray far from it.
I believe God allowed me to see it for that fleeting moment as a way to renew and strengthen my faith – and to encourage me to come home more often.
And now I am gently reminded I just need to regularly take the time to listen, to breathe, to quiet that demanding to-do list.
To minimize the circuitous detours I create for myself.
To feel the tug at my heart.
To welcome and seek out – not avoid – the opportunities I have for my path to intersect with others.
And to step out confidently, trusting that the ground under my feet isn’t just dirt or rocks or asphalt, but a beautiful, shimmering, golden ribbon, leading me along the path God has planned for me.
Rachel is a writer, daughter, wife and mother who migrates between Alaska and Hawaii – the only two places she has ever called home.