Every Tuesday I volunteer at Indiana University Hospital on the north side of Indianapolis. I serve in the chaplain department and help with hospital bereavement for adults and infants. Each day, I check in with the chaplain on the first floor and then go to the third floor that houses labor and delivery.
Last Tuesday, I went to the third floor twice. It's not uncommon to see people gathered on the far right side of the floor as they await the birth of a baby.
I noticed the group of people had arranged the chairs in a circle forming a wide group containing various ages including a five or six month old baby. These people were a jovial group, laughing, smiling and passing the baby around like a little football. He soon will have to share the spotlight with another little one. My guess is these two cousins will grow up having fun, and building special memories at family gatherings and reunions.
On the other side of the third floor, I saw a young woman in a wheelchair surrounded by a circle of eight friends who came to visit. I watched as they laughed and talked animatedly, bringing repeated smiles to their sick friend.
Circles suggest inclusivity. In a rectangular setup, people sitting at the four corners are tucked away and can get "lost" from the conversation; but in a circle, everyone is seen.
In the Episcopal church where I grew up communion was always the first Sunday of the month. Instead of using bread to represent the body of Christ, they used a circular wafer with a cross embossed on the front.
I think of life in the body of Christ as a circle embracing all people whom we encounter with love. A circle also "happens" when a person gives and receives a hug. Two sets of arms wrap around each other - a picture of how the love of God embraces us at all times.
One of the ways I stay aware of God's presence is to look for "signs along the way." A circle reminds me of God's embrace. Bread represents the body of Christ helps me recall the day Jesus fed thousands from five loaves of bread and two fish. A piece of cloth I am quilting takes me to the woman with the hemorrhage who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus' robe. A candle speaks of God's light and constant presence.
When I returned to the third floor for the second time that day, the circle of "expectant" relatives was broken. A few were walking around stretching their legs. Others had gone downstairs for lunch. The baby's impending arrival prolonged the family's wait. The circle of friends on the other side were still going strong laughing, smiling and bringing cheer to the sick one.
I carried away comfort from these two gatherings as I remembered all a circle represents to my heart - another one of my "signs along the way."
What are your "signs along the way?"
Prayer: Holy God, the world is full of symbols that can bring us to you. Help us spend some time thinking of symbols that are dear to us, return us to you, keeping us grounded in your presence. Amen.