Saturday, May 10, 2014

One way in and out

When I was about 14 years old, I was helping out in summer camp at my church.  We spent one week talking about labyrinths and journeys.  We went and walked the labyrinth at our local retreat center.  By the end of the week, we had drawn a giant one on the black of the church parking lot with multi-colored sidewalk chalk.  I loved it!

I have walked labyrinths in New York and Wyoming and brought a small hand-held one with me to Tanzania.   Each time I have entered one I have had a profoundly different experience.  I have cried because of the power in the experience, used the twisting path as a way to clear my head, focused my prayers, and more times than I like to recall, left feeling exactly the same as I entered, if not a bit frustrated because of ineffectiveness of the experience.  I have walked alone and with others.  I have entered feeling both frustrated and at ease, and at times have left with the same emotions. 

One of the most powerful labyrinth walks I have completed reminded me of the journey I am on.  This little thing called life.  As I entered, I remembered my first experiences with the labyrinth.  A line of children standing in the church parking lot, waiting to enter the maze with no end and racing to finish.  Yes, my journey started in the church where I grew up. 

As I continued through the twists and turns, I thought of all the things that lead me to this point in my life.  EYC as a youth in the church connected me through occasional weekend gatherings with other Episcopalians in my home state, and taught me that there are others like me out there who will surround me with love as soon as they meet me.  My Happening event in High School showed me the love that those close to me already felt at the same time that it allowed me to share that love with others I had just met.  The Episcopal Youth Event in 2002 gave me a glimpse into the church with a much farther reach.  These things, along with my experiences as a young adult have made me who I am. 
As I made it to the inner circle, I paused.  I saw myself where I was then.  I could look around and see all the things that had happened in my life, but I knew the journey was only half complete.  I turned to the path I had most recently left and thought about my future.  Looking back, I realize that I was thinking of where I am today. 

I walked slowly out of the labyrinth, thinking about what the future held.  As I walked though, I saw connections to the past.  I passed an oddly shaped stone and thought about a friend I hadn’t talked to in years.  She was in charge of many of the events I attended in Middle and High School, the ones I had thought about when I passed this stone on the way in.  What would she think of what I’m doing now?  Does she know the influence she still holds on me?

I stepped around the tall grass that was encroaching into the path I was walking and remembered doing the same thing as I thought about Taize.  I thought about the kids with whom I had recently returned.  They have grown so much.  I used to babysit one of them when he was much smaller.  Does this mean that I have grown too?

Each turn brought me back to one of those memories as I looked toward my future.  It struck me that the past is constantly talking to the present, and the future.  It is easy to lose yourself in a labyrinth.  When you walk with others, it becomes hard to tell who is coming in and who is leaving.  Isn’t that just like life?

My entire time in Tanzania has been one such journey.  Living in an area that is concentrated with missionaries, you get used to knowing people for only a short time.  New people are welcomed into the community as frequently as others are sent off.  I met several people here when I first arrived that have since left.  Others have been here for a short time, as my time begins to run short.

One of the coolest parts of a labyrinth is that even after you leave the inner circle, you will on occasion turn and walk back towards it.  We are always able to turn back to that point, even as we continue to move forward. 


My favorite labyrinth design is called the Chartres labyrinth.  In it, you are quickly brought to the edge of the inner circle before weaving your way around all of the outer layers.  This also means that you exit in the same quick way. I have less than 2 months left in the amazing place I have called home since last July.  I feel like I have just turned the corner into this last section.   I’m not quite ready to leave, but no matter how slowly I walk, I will be there soon.  I know that there is another life waiting for me outside and another labyrinth walk for me to take.  As in my other visits inside a labyrinth, I have cried, been frustrated, put to ease, spent time clearing my head…

… and changed.

1 comment:

  1. Very moving! My daughter, Margaret Clinch is also fascinated with the labyrinth. We offered to send her to the Phillipines with a miniature, pewter Chartres labyrinth, but she demurred, noting her poor eyesight and inability to follow the miniature one with the stylus. We have her favorite waiting for her here at home - one on a bread-board sized disk of wood, which I drew the pattern for and my son, her brother carved out using a Dremel tool.