I'd describe this blog as a place for the purposeful ramblings of Ruth and others. You get to read my thoughts. Will you please share yours, too?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lost in the Labyrinth

If any of you have ever walked a labyrinth, you know that there is only one way in and one way out. It appears to be a maze, but really there is only one path and no dead ends. You simply follow the path to the center, and retrace the same path to exit the way you came in. It has been a spiritual exercise for centuries, and there are many ways to walk it that help one become closer to God.

We walked a labyrinth as a small group at Mo-Ranch. The one we did is laid out in stones and sits in a grove of trees that overlooks the Guadalupe River. I decided to focus on one particular verse on the way in, a second verse while I was in the center of the labyrinth, and a third on my way out. Here is how I recounted my experience when I scribbled furiously shortly after I exited. May it be a blessing to you and may God teach you gently as he did for me that day.

On the way in I repeated Matthew 11:28.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."

I was repeating the verse over and over. I even got out my little pocket Bible so I could physically read the words. Walking, reading, repeating. I got lost. How is that possible when there's only one path?! Perception is tricky. I thought I was at the center because I saw it so close to me. I assumed that I should be entering. Who am I to think I know the way better? I distanced myself from others, wanting to go at my own pace rather than follow or have "my space" invaded by someone behind me. Wait. Isn't this labyrinth God's space?

Turn around, on the way back out, retrace steps, I saw that rock before, disoriented, confused, frustrated. I feel like I screwed up. How many times have I felt this way before? Focusing too hard on the path itself, on the external, ignoring the people around me and the Lord that wants to lead me. Head in my Bible, looking at the words rather than living the phrase he's beckoning me with. Come to me, Ruth... Don't try to make your own way--just come the way I've set out for you. Don't over-think it; just come... A gentle voice, not harsh. Mine is the scolding tone I hear in my head. The breeze whispers, come... Forget your retraced steps, you'll make it there if you just keep going. You didn't screw up, you just gave me an opportunity to redirect you and reposition you. You're ready now... Come...

Other people entered, so I waited for them to pass me. The only way i'm going to get to you, Jesus, is to follow others to you. (Sigh...) I am going the right way. Oh, I see now. I was close to the center. I could see the center, close enough to touch it. But it's going to be a little longer until I'm there. You're going to lead me out, away from the center, as the very way to bring me in.

When I reached the center of the labyrinth, I sat on one of the large stones and contemplated the next part of the Matthew 11 passage. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." -Matthew 11: 29-30

Yes, Lord, you do teach me. Gently, not in a harsh way. You are humble; you don't say, "I told you so." It makes me want to put my pride aside and be humble like you. I will take your yoke upon me, I want to be led by you. Yes, your yoke is easy--when I don't try to go my own way, that is. The only burdens on me are my own, because your burden is light.

I'm ready to take this truth out into the world now...

As I took my first steps on the path back out, I began repeating Acts 17:28. "In him we live and move and have our being." I had to put some kind of physical movement with it to reinforce the words.

I chose some prayer postures to demonstrate what the words meant to me.
In him: Palms layered on one another, pressed against my chest to remind me that because I am in him, he is in me.

We live: Arms beside my body, elbows bent very slightly, palms facing out, and fingers pointed to the ground, reminding me that in addition to our spiritual lives, we are physically alive and we do walk on this earth.

And move: a conscious movement, sweeping my arms from by my side to the next posture, almost like I am opening my wings.

And have our being: arms extended out at shoulder height, slightly bending elbows upward, palms facing up in the air, back a bit arched and chin tilted up so my face sees the sky. This kind of posture is a bit awkward for me, a person who does not like to draw attention to myself much or extend myself that boldly and openly. I prefer to be a bit more inwardly-focused. Yet, the posture I took was exactly the kind of "being" Christ empowers us to have. We are to have our being in vast openness and freedom, in bold assurance of our redemption, in security that lets us hold our head high to gaze in God's loving face, not cower and bend in shame.

As I continued to repeat the verse and move through the prayer postures, it became a circular statement. "In him" was just as much the beginning of the phrase as it was the end of the phrase.
In him we live and move...
...have our being in him.
I recognized that it was the "in him" that was the key.

When I got to the exit, I turned and noticed that I had a very good view of the part of the path that came immediately before and led into the inner circle. I paused, remembered what Jesus gently taught me, and I took a deep breath before moving my feet and hands those last few paces. I'm still walking and praying. Jesus is still gently teaching me when I am humble enough to let him.

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