Sometimes life makes us feel that we are walking in circles. We wonder where we are headed, and wish that we would hurry up and get there. At moments like those, it helps me to reflect on a time when I actually did walk in circles, as part of a spiritual retreat that included a prayer labyrinth. It was simply a large canvas mat, painted with a maze whose winding path led around and around and finally to the center of the circle. I tried to quiet my thoughts as I walked, to focus on what I was doing, and make room for God to speak. I found myself almost crying sometimes because of the sad realization that most of us hardly ever take time to just be, to still the voices of the world in our heads and wait on God. Even if I do sit down and take a breather, I am usually reading or chatting on the phone or watching TV or planning what I need to do next. The labyrinth walk was very peaceful, as if somehow the repetitive movement of my body freed my mind to follow God.
There were several of us in the labyrinth at the same time, all at different places in the journey. Sometimes our paths would be parallel, and we would smile and walk alongside one another for a while, until suddenly, one of our paths took an abrupt turn and we were separated. It made me feel a little lonely the first time. But then I thought of the One who walks beside me and ahead of me, who is the Voice in my ear telling me the way, who never veers away. God knows our path, every scary and wonderful inch of it, and even though we can barely see the next turn, God sees the whole thing from above. Our way is never hidden from God.
At times, the labyrinth seemed frustrating and pointless. There I was, walking back and forth in ridiculous circles, often heading seemingly away from my destination. But there is only one path in the labyrinth, so I knew it was the right one. There was a strong temptation for me to cut across. It took forty-five minutes to complete the circuitous route, when I could have walked straight across the mat in a few seconds. But then I would have missed the whole experience. Sometimes the journey is the destination. Often in life, even if we can see where we think we need to be, jumping over steps to get there faster could be disastrous. When we get there, we may find that we are not yet who we need to be to do any good there, or even to enjoy being there at all. It is the experiences along the path that teach us what we need to know and help us become who need to be when we reach our destination.
God, we trust that you see and know our path. Help us to take joy in the journey and not to rush through what you have to teach us with every step. Remind us that just because we seem to be going in circles or even moving backwards does not mean that we are not making progress. Thank you for the grace you scatter along the way every day, and especially for walking alongside us always. Amen.
-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent