Cold. Windy. Leaves dance over lawn of stately, majestic, academic stone buildings. Aged window panes reflect retreating light.
I enter the prayer labyrinth, my hands tucked deep into pockets, and I begin to pray, to center myself as I walk to find The Center.
Others join me in silence, spaced out along the path, each one entering his/her own secret place with God. We crunch leaves beneath our feet.
I glance around, wondering if I'm doing this right. I remind myself that maybe there is no "right" way and continue on. Clumps of leaves obscure the path boundaries, so I kick at them, looking for embedded bricks that shape the way.
Pausing, I attempt to empty thoughts except to remember, to thank.
Continuing on, the path turns outwards instead of inwards as I am expecting. A sliver of doubt pierces the peace within. I turn around, thinking perhaps I've missed the path somehow. But, no, there the bricks that shape the way mark the path, an outward turn.
A deep breath.
Steps to continue on this path that is taking me to The Center in unexpected turns in then out.
Each time the turn goes inward, I breath an inward sigh of relief. I know the point is to go deeper in, and assurance that I'm led aright strengthens in my heart.
With each outward turn, the doubt returns. This feels somehow incorrect. It's deeper in, not farther out, I need to go to find The Center.
I look around at others on the path, hoping to gain some insight into how to do this right.
And then a whispered word to me, "Why do you doubt the path before you?"
"I doubt because it's not right. I'm supposed to be going further in, not further out. I must've done something wrong. I think I missed a turn back there or crossed a boundary line obscured by leaves and grass," I reason.
"Who says going out is not also going in?" the gentle reply comes.
And then I see the doubt and worry, energy squandered when trust was required.
The revelation of the labyrinth of life that wanders in and wanders out and each inward pass I perceive as "right" and each outward one is perhaps erroneously marked as "wrong."
I start to smile; this analogy of life comes unexpected. All this time the outward turns have brought fear and doubt of something wrong. I've turned back, retraced steps to find the place where I belong. And usually, with time and toil, another inward turn arrives.
I think, "Ah, I've found the way again" but maybe, just maybe the path was beneath my feet all along. I just thought out was bad and in was good.
A shift in thinking now occurs.
The inward times are equipping times, new tools released and strategies defined for coming seasons in my life.
The outward times are for walking out, for one must pass outward again to use and strengthen new tools in hands.
And then my feet reach the center of prayer labyrinth and I smile to find The Center. I breathe a sigh of relief. Unexpected lesson in this short journey brings words of praise and thanksgiving to my lips.
I stand and marvel, now freer, now bursting, now more peace, now more resting.
How thankful am I to have this story, a rock of remembrance in my heart. This spiritual journey of mine mirrored in this ancient design. I hope to remember in this life-long journey to The Center to trust the steps leading out are bringing me inward just like the ones leading in.
Scarritt Bennet Labyrinth