This past week, I took a handful of college students up to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to walk a prayer labyrinth. I walked the labyrinth looking for direction about some upcoming decisions. At times, I’ve been trying to make things happen and was curious if I was supposed to make them happen or just see what happens. As I began walking the labyrinth, my thought began to quickly wander. I’m not typically good at this naval-gazing spiritual reflection stuff. By the time I made it to the center, I had calmed the random thoughts and focused on one thing: ‘how do I lead a meaningful discussion about the labyrinth experience when this is over.’ I walked into the labyrinth looking for discussion points and had forgotten to reflect on my question–my spiritual need. So I told myself (or God told me), ‘stop planning, just be.’ In a flash, I realized that God had just answered the question that led me to the labyrinth in the first place–am I working to hard to make things happen?
Similar to my experience walking into the labyrinth, it seems to me that many pastors (by which I mean, myself) read the scriptures looking for talking points. We hone in on the meaty stuff, ignore the stuff that won’t obviously connect with our people and, I believe, frequently miss the bigger picture and beauty of the scripture. If I hadn’t caught myself, I’m not sure I would have ever opened myself to God to hear the message. There might be a sermon in there.
Conversations with the students afterwards was great. Here are some highlights of our insights together:
- The longest, uninterrupted pathways were the ones that were the farthest from the center. In order to stay close to the center, you have to keep turning and changing direction.
- Entry into the center was a surprise. The end of the journey into the center happens very suddenly from the outside of the circle when we thought we were far away.
- It’s hard to tell where we are on our journey…how close or far away. It’s even harder to tell where other people are on their path–even if we know who started before or after us.
- “My feet were deliberately walking along a particular direction for the first time in a long time. Usually I just lollygag my way around.” Seems to be true of real life as well.
- There is only one path. That being said, we can choose to ignore the lines, jump to a different spot on the path or just go straight to the center. OR, we can follow the path layed out before us which was (literally) difficult to see at times. We wondered how many people missed some of the pathway lines and ended up back in the middle after thinking they were on their way out. IF we chose to ignore the lines, intersting outcomes can happen, but we all saw how cheap of an experience it would be to simply walk into the middle and then walk out.
- At one point, one person got lonely, abandoned his path, put an arm around me and started walking with me. At first, I was annoyed. ‘didn’t he listen to the rules? This is supposed to be a solo journey.’ Then I realized, ‘this is cool…he abandoned his path to walk with me because he didn’t want to be lonely. I should be willing to work with that.’ We walked togehter for a bit. Eventually, he decided to let go and walk on his own again.