I panic as my sister pushes me forward into the haunted house corn maze on Halloween. I don’t like the feeling of not knowing where I am going, of not being able to find my way out. Wandering confused from one dead end to the next, it seems like a long time before I find my way out…
Years later, my friend invites me to walk the labyrinth and when I ask, “what it that?” she says, “it’s kind of like a maze.” I am not thrilled with that idea but she explains that in contrast to the common corn maze, the modern labyrinth offers one way in and one way out, with no tricks or dead ends to confuse us. She takes me to a church that has a beautiful inlaid wood floor where she knows that I can have a safe place to walk, and to contemplate my grief.
I enter the labyrinth at the baptismal font. I think about water and its refreshing qualities on this 80-degree summer night. I enter as a sinner, the same way I was baptized over forty years ago. I enter barefoot, heavy laden with unanswerable questions, with insurmountable grief. The winding path leads me close to the center, the space that symbolically represents the presence of God. Another minute and I am on the outer reaches of the circle. Lately, I have felt far away from God, a lost sheep in the flock. As I look down at my feet, I notice small droplets of water on the floor, my tears that are now flowing freely. I continue to walk, plodding forward not knowing where the winding path will lead.
There are others on this journey, people from various parts of the city or suburbs that fine refuge here, who meditate, who come seeking answers or who need a quiet place just to listen. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ, pilgrims who travel along side of me and cross my path. As I walk I gather strength knowing that I am not truly alone, that our prayers unite us and that Jesus is with us in the twists and turns. My head is forward and my eyes down when suddenly I reach the carpeted center of the labyrinth. I have been told that the center is a place to sit, to lie down, or to just center ourselves on the presence of God. A place to receive God’s healing love, and to leave the burdens of our lives at His feet. It is in this spot, that I feel protected, that I allow myself to give up my human tendency to figure it all out on my own. I lay down, symbolizing that I am spent, that I need to “let go and let God.”
Times passes, and I realize that I still need to make the journey back, out of the labyrinth. I have mixed emotions about leaving this place. I feel like a small child leaving the security of home. On one hand, I am frightened by what I still might have to encounter on my journey of grief, on the other hand; I have renewed strength and confidence that God truly is walking with me, that he truly is my Good Shepherd. I leave the candlelit sanctuary at the same place I began, the baptismal font; I reflect on the words used during the Rite of Baptism – water is the sign of the kingdom and of cleansing and rebirth. I AM a child of God, baptized in faith. Even when I walk far away from him in anger, or when I can’t see him through my grief. I have chosen to leave this place reborn, hopeful that I will continue to see his face, hear his voice, and take one day at a time.
- Labyrinths are found inside of churches or outside in gardens.
- There are smaller, portable finger labyrinths where you can trace the path with your finger or stylus.
- Portable canvas labyrinths are also available to rent and use in your own space.
Coming to Milwaukee, WI in the future and want to check out a labyrinth? Tweet me @greet_grief and I will give you some locations or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org