Yesterday afternoon Sophie and I took a wrong turn. Since she and I enjoy looking at different housing designs to get ideas for future living after she graduates from college, we planned a visit to a new apartment complex in our area. Well, while I drove and we chatted, I accidentally turned onto a road leading the opposite direction of the complex. Soon, disorientation flooded my soul and I knew we were not headed the right way. Thankfully, Sophie pulled out her phone, mapped the correct directions and after a series of unexpected twists and turns, we eventually arrived at our intended destination.
Similarly, life with God often takes surprising turns, creating unforeseen encounters along the way. In those moments, the spiritual journey seems confusing to us. We feel lost and perplexed as to God’s ways and even wonder if we’ve taken the wrong turn. We’d all prefer a neon direction sign that reads “Go this way!” But, we rarely see such markers. Most of the time, God gently gives just enough light or direction for the next moment.
This reminds me of the power of the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth.
For our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary Gary and I ventured to the Benet Hill Monastery outside Colorado Springs, CO. We journeyed there to walk an outdoor labyrinth. Blue sky hovered above us, pine trees surrounded us, and their cones and needles decorated the forest floor. Before us lay a labyrinth following the model of the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth in France.
Signs of labyrinth designs on tablets, pottery and tiles date as far back as five thousand years. We even see the basic pattern of the labyrinth in a snail shell, a whirlpool, and the inner ear. While early church fathers such as Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nyysa, and Jerome of Stridon wrote about labyrinths, it was not until the 12th or 13th centuries that we find evidence that churches employed labyrinths to symbolize the spiritual journey of life, as well as to provide a place for worship, prayer, reflection and communion with God.
Ten years ago I first encountered the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth. Different from a maze, a labyrinth has only one path – a single path leading to the center of the design, with the same path ushering the way out. From the entrance, sojourners see the beginning, the center and the end of the labyrinth path. To reach the center, the journey requires turn after turn after turn. The anticipated center space is a place to pause: to rest, reflect and receive from God. After being refreshed by God, the traveller, then turns around and walks the same path out following turn after turn after turn.
Gary and I entered the outdoor labyrinth reflecting with the Lord as our Companion.
Depending on the space, labyrinths range in size. It took several twists and turns for my racing mind and heart to slow down. Peace enveloped me along the path and God lifted my focus to Himself. As I journeyed toward the center, I noticed the movement of God within me. I experienced great comfort knowing I could not get lost in the journey – the pathway was secure and sure. By following the labyrinth path, there were no “wrong turns.” This reminded me of my own faith journey; I move forward with God assured of His presence. I experience safety in the sovereign love of God. I may not know exactly where He is taking me, but I am confident in the One who leads me – He is Trustworthy.
In the twists and turns of life, do you notice the trustworthy companionship of God? How does God’s peace move within you?
The path seemed long. I wondered if I would ever reach the center; yet in that moment, Jesus reminded me that some days in life just “feel” longer than others. The presence of God remains constant through long, challenging seasons as well as exhilarating, adventurous moments. Encouragement poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit as I followed the path.
Whether time flies by or appears to stall, let God flood your soul with the presence and encouragement of the Holy Spirit.
The grounds of this particular labyrinth rolled with the surface of the earth – slight hills and valleys mapped the contour of the labyrinth design. I reflected on the ups and downs of life, becoming attentive to God’s grace and provision in my life and those close to me. It surprised me when after a sharp turn in the labyrinth I found myself walking up an incline. I remembered that hard climbs often follow unexpected turns in life. Nevertheless, God filled my legs and heart with strength to continue the journey toward the center.
What unexpected turns have you experienced? How did God strengthen you physically, emotionally and spiritually?
Resting at the center of the labyrinth soothed my soul. There, I was wrapped in the everlasting, unconditional, and abundant love of God. He held me close to Himself. I soaked in His presence. No fear, worry, or expectation gripped me; only the embrace of my Savior. Gary and I enjoyed sweet fellowship together as we spoke of our labyrinth sojourn to the center.
Walking the labyrinth provides time and margin to consider God’s movement in your life, both internally and externally. As I began the journey out of the labyrinth, following the same path, I lifted my eyes, asking the Lord to show me how to serve and love others. Each time Gary’s and my path connected side by side, we high five’d one another. Raising our hands to spur one another on as if “to run the race marked out for us,” I realized the joy I experience when I encourage others in their faith journey, motivating their pursuit of God (see Hebrews 12:1-2).
Do you look for others to encourage each day on the journey of life, as your paths connect side by side?
Moving outward, I also noticed lone pine cones littering the path. My inclination arose to remove them; to clear the path for others who come to walk after me. Awareness grew within me that I get to come alongside other sojourners and help them remove the “unnecessary” from their path; the “pine cones” in their lives that distract from following Jesus.
What is unnecessary in your life, that either slows you down or maybe even hinders you from journeying with Jesus?
Who can you support today by encouraging them in their faith journey?
The practice of walking a labyrinth slowed me down and gave me margin to reflect and pray with thankfulness. While the path of life has many twists and turns, God knows the way He has sovereignly marked out for us. Security, trust, and hope fill the soul as we follow “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (see John 14:6). God never forces us, only beckons us to journey forward with Him.
Ponder with me the path you walk with the Lord. It may not be a literal labyrinth, but questions and awareness arise within us as we walk. Pay attention to God’s movement within you and around you; you don’t need to worry about taking a wrong turn :—)
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?
This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.
Jill Kimberley Harrell Geoffrion. Christian Prayer and Labyrinths: Pathways to Faith, Hope and Love. Cleveland, Ohio, 2004.
Travis Scholl. Walking the Labyrinth: A Place to Pray and Seek God. Downers Grove, IL, 2014.