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Walking the Labyrinth…

March 16, 2015

Montreat Labyrinth

The first labyrinth I ever “walked” or “experienced” was at Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina. Denise and I had gone to Montreat for the Immersion Experience course for our Certificate in Christian Spiritual Formation through Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. I had read about labyrinths for years, but had never had the opportunity to walk one. When we arrived, I will admit that I was a bit disappointed.  It was simply painted on the floor of a gazebo at the top of the trail we had hiked.  However, upon prayerfully entering the labyrinth, my spirit and mind began to be transformed. In the simple act of following the path prayerfully, I was overwhelmed spiritually. Since that time, I have had the blessing of walking labyrinths in Philadelphia (the Sisters of St Francis of Philadelphia during a Contemplative Retreat over the Feast of St Francis) and at Beckwith Episcopal Camp and Conference Center near Fairhope, Alabama (where Denise and I met and were married), Sacred Heart Monastery (where Denise was at a Women’s Contemplative Retreat for the Spiritual Formation program… I was down the road for the Men’s Contemplative Retreat at St Bernard’s Abbey) in Cullman, Alabama, and most recently (yesterday) at Resurrection Catholic Church in Miramar Beach, Florida.

Each time we have walked the labyrinth, it has been a powerful and prayer-filled experience. The process of walking prayerfully through the labyrinth is indeed a way to go deeper and allow God to speak to you. Unlike a maze (I have walked plenty of those in the US and in England) where there are dead-ends and you never have the sense that you are walking with a spiritual purpose; a labyrinth has one  way in and one way out. It is the same path in terms of footprints, but it is far different spiritually. On the way to the center, you walk slowly and prayerfully with your head down as you follow the path. And as you walk, lift to God any burdens you may be carrying and ask God to simply speak to you in the stillness of each slow, deliberate steps you take. As you walk, you draw closer to the center and then move outward again, but you are always making your way to the center.

Labyrinth

The diagram above is from http://www.labyrinths.org and it shows a very simple layout for a labyrinth. The pathway really does symbolize our spiritual walk and our spiritual life. There are times in my own life when I feel like I am so far away from the center and yet, if I stay on the path the Lord has laid out for me, I will draw closer to Christ. On the way in, you are shedding the burdens of your spirit… once you reach the center, it is an opportunity to “Be still and know” God… to listen for God’s voice speaking to your heart. On the way back out, whatever you have brought to the labyrinth in terms of a spiritual struggle or question has been lifted and you walk back out the way you came in, but this time with a renewed sense of vision or answer from God.

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Denise and I found a labyrinth at Resurrection Catholic Church in Miramar Beach, Florida yesterday. And, I will admit, when we found it, I was somewhat disappointed. As I began the prayerful journey into the labyrinth, I began to look at the precision with which the stones were laid out  to form the pattern of the walk. It was the largest labyrinth we have ever walked with more winding paths that we were used to. And something else I noticed was the fact that the sidewalk went up to the labyrinth and then came out on the other side near the entrance to the church. You could simply cut through the labyrinth if you were running late for mass… where is the prayer in that?! But I continued my prayerful journey… hopeful that God would somehow speak to me in this setting. When I reached the center and looked up, I was overcome! When I looked up, I saw the crucifix pictured below.

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I took this picture after I exited the labyrinth, but it doesn’t replicate the feeling I had deep within my soul as I raised my eyes from the path and looked up. You see, I looked up and saw my Lord… my Lord, hanging on the cross… my Lord, carrying my sins… my Lord, loving and forgiving me… my Lord, calling me to walk with him…

This Lenten season, Denise and I have intentionally been going inward as we seek to meet our Lord where we are. And as I draw near to Jesus, I sometimes am overwhelmed by the love he has for me. Overwhelmed that he would call a frail, fragile, sinful person like me to serve him as a pastor and shepherd.

I ask you, dear reader, to join me in this Lenten journey and pilgrimage, closer to the heart of Christ. Take a moment and reflect on the below pictures… closeups of the sculpture above.

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See his nail pierced feet? See his face wracked with pain? Look closer… do you see his face filled with love for you and for me? I see it and I pray that you do as well. Walk with me as we seek to humbly be Christ-followers…

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