“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
This is called a labyrinth. This is used on many Christian retreats. Walking the labyrinth is a sacred journey of prayer. Unlike a maze this has a single winding path that leads to the center. There are no obstacles or dead ends….every path leads to the center. As you walk the retreat leader will make some suggestions like take your time, stop when needed, rest and listen to God as He speaks to you. As you begin your pilgrimage God invites you to let go of things that clutter your life. Take notice about those things that distract you or hinder you from listening to God. The journey to the center is an opportunity to release burdens, take note of your fears, and confess any sins. I have walked the labyrinth on several occasions and am always amazed at the outcome.
As I was thinking about the labyrinth I was thinking in some aspects the labyrinth is a lot like our lives. When you walk the path on the labyrinth you twist and turn; it’s not a straight path to the center. As you twist and turn you find yourself in the center. Life is like that. Our lives do not lead a straight path. We often find ourselves twisting and turning, doubling back and forth and then moving forward. Unlike the labyrinth we can’t see the end of our life or exactly where it leads to. I think of death as the center of our labyrinth of life. What we find in the center is how we have lived our lives. On a labyrinth we are to return the way we came; often again stopping to pray, listening for God, resting and reflecting on our time in the center. With life there is no do over; once we reach our center we are done.
Some folks walking the labyrinth rush through it. They don’t stop and rest, prayer is just a fast breath prayer and there is little reflecting. That’s the way some people treat life. They rush through life running from one thing to another. They never stop to rest or pause and take a breath. Some don’t even stop and smell the roses. They just go from one thing to another. I saw a Christian Counselor once. He asked me if I ever stopped and did nothing. I had to confess I didn’t. Even when I was sitting watching TV my hands were busy cross stitching or doing something. He highly suggested I learn to stop and do nothing. That’s impossible for some people. I have gotten better at it, but I still have a long way to go.
I know it’s easy to get distracted or let thoughts hinder me from having a meaningful walk. Every time I walk the labyrinth I have to take the first little bit and work on getting rid of those things that distract me or hinder me from listening to God. I am the same way in life. I get distracted and before you know it I have left God out of my walk and I am wondering this life alone. I have noticed also that I let things hinder me from having a meaningful walk with God. Those things that often hinder me are pride, selfishness, sin and even the world. Just like walking the labyrinth I have to stop and refocus. I have to ask God to help me get rid of those things that hinder me from walking with Him and to help me put aside those things that distract me. Sometimes walking the labyrinth I find myself distracted several times. Or those things that want to hinder me come rising up in my thoughts again. On more than one occasion I have had to ask for help from God. We all get distracted and there are always things that want to hinder our walk with God. When we find we are distracted we need to stop and refocus on God. When things are hindering us from a walk with Him we need to pray about those things and ask for His help in removing those hindrances.
I have talked with others about the labyrinth and they don’t like the twists, turns, and the doubling back. Life always twists and turns. You go along and everything is headed in a straight path and you think life is good and then just about that time something comes along and it twists your life into a totally different direction. You come to a cross road in your life and you have to decide which way to turn. Unlike the labyrinth you have choices; the labyrinth does not give you a choice. The choices we make often decide what our center will be like. Do we make the right choices and live our lives to please God or do we go off on our own in complete control of our own destiny? I once was headed in the right direction. I had some twist and turns and the next thing I knew I had a detour or I had to go back and pick up where I had left off leaving me to double back on my path. We often take two steps forward and one step back. On more than one occasion we find ourselves doubling back and learning to take a new path or a different path. Doubling back can often be a teaching tool if we let it.
Most labyrinths are the same length. Life is different for everyone. Some journeys or the labyrinths of our lives are long and we wonder when we are older if we will ever reach the center; other times our labyrinths are cut short and our center comes much to quick. I was reminded that this week. The labyrinth on a retreat you can see the beginning and the end. You know exactly where the center is, but the labyrinths of our lives are much different. We can’t see the center or the time it will take for us to get there. I am learning it’s best to slow down and enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the destination. It’s best to stop and rest, listening for God to speak to us and guide us as life twists and turns. I am learning it’s more about the journey and how well I travel through this journey and what I do while I am on the journey than seeing how fast I can get there. It’s about making sure God is with me on this journey so I won’t get lost, distracted or let those things to hinder me.
The labyrinth has no obstacles unless it’s folks in front of us. . If you have someone in front of you, you can always slow down until they move on or quietly move around them. You don’t let them become the obstacle. Life throws all kinds of obstacles our way. It’s how we deal with those obstacles that tell what kind of person we are. Do we deal with those obstacles with a Christian heart asking God to help us or do we try to deal with them ourselves? Are there reasons for those obstacles in our lives? Is God trying to teach us something as we deal with them?
Finally, the one leading the labyrinth often asks you to leave the clutter behind; take no baggage with you. God wants our baggage. God wants us to hand over the clutter of our lives so He can deal with it. As long as we are holding on to our clutter or our baggage God cannot work.
When I walk a labyrinth I want to experience God in the center. I want to find him waiting for me to wrap His arms around me and to let me know I have made it. I want to sit there forever basking in His presence, but He tells me it’s not time and I must move on. When my labyrinth of life is over I want to find him waiting for me; wrapping his arms around me. I want to hear him say you’ve made it. I want the same things for you.
We are all walking the labyrinths of our lives; it’s what we do and how we live and how we respond to God that will lead us to Him or lead us to an empty circle with no one waiting for us. We will either find emptiness or we will find God’s presence filling up the center just waiting for us. Which will it be for you?
Dear God: Help me to walk this labyrinth of life with you. When there are distractions and hindrances may I give them to you to remove. Dear Lord, I come giving you my clutter and my baggage. Help me to pry my fingers off of the handles so you can freely take my baggage from me; never taking it back. Finally, Dear God as my life twists, turns and doubles back may I take comfort in knowing you are there with me all the way at each twist, turn and doubling back. Only you know Dear Lord how long my labyrinth will be. May I live each day to its fullest, relying on you and being a faithful servant to you and those around me you have given me. May I find at the end of my labyrinth you waiting to wrap me in your arms and telling me I’ve made it. Thank you God. Thank you God. Amen