Sometimes I like to walk the labyrinth. I have a place I go every once in awhile to have a Sabbath-a breather for my soul. I walk, I read, I pray, I just spend time being. And yesterday, I took a long overdue day at this place. As I approached the labyrinth yesterday in the crisp, damp air, I became overwhelmed. What a perfect metaphor for our lives. This path that I walk could tell the story of my life, probably more poetically than I could.
There are so many temptations on the path.
We see the destination (or what we think is the destination--because really we can't know), and we are so tempted to jump over all the boundary lines to get there. That bench looks so serene, and we want to just skip all the twisting and go straight there. But we must keep our eyes on the path in front of us. The only way to walk the path is step by agonizing step, sometimes barely willing our feet to move, one in front of the other.
Sometimes we become so intimidated by the seemingly endless twists and turns, all that winding, that it's tempting to just give up. So many times I've wanted to just step over all the rocks and walk away, abandoning the path altogether.
Or sometimes we grow so tired we want to plop down on the path right where we are, in a heap of exhaustion-tears. I've done that many times. Can I tell you that every time I've collapsed like that, God has been right there with me? We have a tendency to think that he's waiting in the middle, sitting impatiently on that bench, tapping his thumb and looking anxiously at his watch. Actually he's right beside us the whole time. The scriptures say our God is patient. He walks with us at our snail's pace, talking us through the discouragement sometimes, at others offering his silent presence. But God is always with us, no matter where his journey takes us.
This path looks so much like my own, though perhaps it's even a bit more orderly. As I come to it again, I'm struck with flashbacks of the past few years--snapshots of moments on my path. I see the moments of anxiety and worry, crying out to God to help me trust so that I can stay on the path. "Stay the course," he'd gently say, as he gave my hand a squeeze. I see moments of desperation, praying fervently for his provision. The nerve-wracking part of those moments was that sometimes I had to keep walking, going merely on faith. Sometimes it would take a few steps before I'd see the need being met, but of course then I would realize that it was right on time.
The path can often look bleak: the blackness of the earth and mulch and the grey stones everywhere can overwhelm us. So sometimes we need to take our eyes up for a moment to gain perspective. What looks bleak in the moment is actually still a place surrounded by green. We are in the center of a lush border of grace. When we walk the path he's given us, we remain hemmed in by beauty, though we may lose sight of it sometimes.
Another thing I'm reminded of as I approach the labyrinth is that I'm entering holy ground. God meets me here in a special way. And when we're walking with God, our life paths are holy, too. That's why it's dangerous to peek over at someone else's path and decide the ways they're going wrong. It's tempting to make a judgement and start offering unsolicited advice. You see, in the labyrinth, if someone else is there, you really can't tell where they are in relationship to you, how far they have to go, or even whether or not they are actually ahead of you. So it's best to offer quiet and humble kindness. When all else fails, that is the best give we can offer one another, our fellow travelers. Quiet, humble kindness. Though it's not flashy or glamorous, I believe it's revolutionary. I believe it could change the world.
The path never seems efficient to us. We humans, or maybe I should say we Americans, are obsessed with efficiency, aren't we? Maybe that's why the way of the cross doesn't make sense to us. It's truly hard to wrap our little minds around. But if we'll stay faithful even when things don't quite make sense, if we'll keep trusting and following, it will be worth it. When we look back over the journey we've made thus far, we'll see that every one of those twists and turns has served a purpose, that God has been shaping us all along, weaving lessons into us as we weave in and out of our obstacles. And we can look back and see the strength, the perseverance, the wisdom we've gained by doing it God's way, not our own.