Labyrinths are fascinating. I’ve grown fond of walking them. If you have never prayed or walked one, you may not understand that they are a series of twists and turns that lead close to the Centre and then far away from it before arriving in the middle. Life is like that, this dance that draws near and pulls away. The unexpected direction shifts can unsettle the walker the first time through. The way back is sometimes easier because you have been through it once and can surrender to the path without resistance.
I entered this one with an open heart and a bit of a heavy soul. These past few months have been physically challenging, emotionally charged, and mentally draining. When I met with my CancerCare social worker yesterday, he commented that illness and the recovery process are like grief because he knew I was familiar with that experience. The person who is grieving or is sick gets through the immediate crisis and then later falls apart. The widow is stoic through the funeral but three months later cries in the produce department in the grocery store because her husband loved asparagus and the sight of it sets her off. The cancer survivor who managed the treatment sessions bravely later weeps when she does not know how to talk about her illness to a friend she has not seen her since her diagnosis. I appreciated the parallel analogy.
As I prayerfully trod on the sacred ground in this United Church, I let myself feel the confusion of my steps whilst allowing my body to yield to the Way. I breathed deeply and as I came close to the altar and the carving of the Last Supper, I stopped and took in the richness of this event.
This is my body, broken for you.
The body of Jesus was broken. He was the Suffering Servant. He is the Way for all of us who suffer. The only way is through, not around. The Way is not a straight line. When I gave talks on grief I would say that the idea of going from point A to point B is somewhat of an illusion. Sometimes point D would crop up first, a sudden drop into a valley, or E for an elevation that arose out of nowhere. The highs and lows of life are unpredictable for us humans.
When I reached the centre of the labyrinth, I stood facing the altar. I could lay my burden down or I could drag it back with me. The choice was mine. I stood silently praying and then turned to return to the entrance, this time feeling lighter. The entrance was now the exit; the labyrinth is a series of paradoxes. Going in gets me out. That was the message of the day for me. I need to embrace what is going on inside–physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in order to move forward and beyond. I had no plans to walk the labyrinth today but as I turned and bowed towards the altar I was pleased I had.
Are you trying to go around something you need to go through?
Can you surrender to the twists and turns of life? What makes this possible?
One step ahead of the other
I am disoriented but keep walking
Trusting the Way because you have trod
here first, marking the path.
I draw close–and pull away.
Turn here, twist there
Peace is here.
Please Jesus, help me through.