When I lived in Durham, NC, I adopted the habit of making a weekly trip to Duke Chapel. If you’ve been there, you know that it is an awesome structure. A massive, cross-shaped room rises dizzyingly into the air, walls of grey interrupted by the bright colors of stained glass. As you enter, you can’t help but look up, and the place evokes a sacred feeling that demands silence or at most whispers if speaking is a must. Most weekdays between 12:30 and 1:30pm the sounds of the organ can be heard reverberating off the walls. Majestic sound teams with majestic sight to create a majestic effect. The Chapel became for me a place of centering and calm, a place of reflection and rest. It became a place of prayer.
As I reflect on my experience at Duke Chapel, it strikes me that such places can be of help in our spiritual journeys. They serve as centering forces in our lives that draw our attention to God and call us to reflection and prayer. At one point in my own life, a majestic chapel fills this role, but a grand place of worship is not a necessity. In fact, we can find many such places if we seek them intentionally. A front porch swing can become a chapel in the warm months of the year. A recliner close to the coffee pot can become a chapel in the early hours of the morning. A walk in the community garden or park can become a chapel experience for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Even jogging, an activity that is by-and-large unknown to me, can become a chapel experience to the initiated. The point is not the place or activity so much as it is the intention that we bring to these things; an intention to unplug for a few moments and to become present to God and his creation in a different way. In these moments, we allow ourselves to be reminded of God and of ourselves. In these moments, we allow ourselves to gain perspective and to see things with fresh eyes.
Of course, things don’t always play out so neatly. At times, these “chapels” can feel void and leave us frustrated. At times, we wonder why we make the time. But there are also moments when God speaks, sometimes powerfully and sometimes in a still, small voice, and these moments keep us coming back. And when we think about it, maybe those “void” moments aren’t so bad. In those moments we learn what it is to wait on the Lord. In those moments we learn that God is free and is not at our beck and call. And in those moments we find that intentional chapel times form a rhythm of life that God uses to shape us. After all, we’re in this for the long haul of regular life and not just for “mountaintop experiences.” In all of this, our chapels, whatever and whenever they may be, serve to remind us of a great God and ground us in his call.
I wonder if you’ve found a chapel in your own experience. If so, have you been there lately?
Let us all wait on the Lord who transforms us.