While I was growing up — and sometimes still now — I imagined my mind as a circular room lined with file cabinets where a chubby little bald man sat in a wheeled office chair. He would retrieve my knowledge and memory by opening the right drawers. It was like there was a flat, wooden floor bisecting my head right above my eyebrows, going from the front of my head (the “face side”) to the back of my head. The room had curved walls and ceiling — the top of my head. When I was trying to remember something, I would knock on my forehead to get my little man’s attention and tell him to go find that test answer or memory or name or whatever that I was trying to come up with. He would roll over to the right file, open a drawer, and the thought would come floating out, like a little ribbon of words.
When I read this article called “The Inner Chapel,” I thought of that little “brain room.” I could imagine the same room as a chapel, lined with stained glass windows rather than file drawers, and myself sitting on a nice pew in the room rather than the little man in a rolling chair.
The word chapel invokes a lot of memories for me. As I’ve said before, I grew up in the Air Force, where my dad was a chaplain. Our family went to the base chapel on Sunday mornings. The chapel was the center of our lives in the Air Force — we went to PYOC (Protestant Youth of the Chapel), summer and winter camps run by the chapel, chapel potlucks and other get-togethers, and of course, my dad went to his office near the chapel every day. We even camped out a couple of times in his office — 4 kids, a dog, and my folks — when the threat of a hurricane in Key West, FL, merited an evacuation to a hurricane shelter.
The chapels were an ecumenical place. They served Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. (I wasn’t aware of other faiths.) One morning a friend and I remained seated after the service we’d attended, caught up in a conversation. At the front of the chapel behind the pulpit was a wall panel with a cross. As we watched, the panel turned around with some kind of motorization and there was a crucifix! Ready for the Catholic service. I wonder now, was there another side to the panel for Jewish or other services?
It enchants me to think of having an inner chapel, a space where God and I commune together. I often imagine myself walking with Jesus while we talk. I can also imagine myself sitting side by side on that little pew in my stained glass-lined “brain chapel.”
Whether it’s in an inner chapel in your mind, in your car, sitting on your bed, standing in your kitchen, taking a walk, watching your kids playing outside, wherever you are, God wants to spend time with you. He loves you and treasures your company. May you know his presence, strength, and care as you go through the moments of your days.
Some of the chapels where my dad served. I can’t remember where all of them were — I found them in old family slides.