When I’m driving someplace new, it often seems like it takes a long time to get there. But the way home always seems quicker. I suppose this is because I’m not paying as close attention to the route or because I’ve now “been there.” With respect to the labyrinth: Is the way out the same as the way in?
If the last year was a labyrinth, the way out was certainly different.
I am different.
I entered reluctantly. My worshipping community has gone through a painful divorce. I don’t need to go into the details here, but everywhere you looked, there were people bleeding. Finished with seminary except for one on-line class, I had significant time to talk with people – and to really listen. As I discerned what God was calling me to do – or not do – I narrowed down three perceived needs of the church that were aligned with my heart. From there, I identified how these needs could be met and where I might uniquely serve in the healing process. This place was worship.
I entered the labyrinth knowing that I was “technically” able. I entered to preach and lead worship in order to provide consistency and familiarity to the community. As we walk the labyrinth, it’s not about how well we do it but our willingness to enter.
On the way in, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I thought this walk would be short – only 3 months. But here’s one thing I’ve learned in the recent labyrinths I’ve walked: God isn’t necessarily concerned with what my expectations are or what the experience is to be. Instead, God teaches me what I really need to know in the way God decides I should experience and learn it.
In the labyrinth of the last year, I had the privilege to serve with an amazing staff. I served for a short time with a wonderful pastor (who probably also experienced and learned things he wasn’t expecting). I led worship with a talented and faithful worship team that allowed us to try and experience new aspects of worship. I hope that I helped my brothers and sisters hear and trust God as we walked the labyrinth together. I was blessed to lead worship on Christmas Eve and Easter (as a seminary student!!). I was allowed to share my faith and myself with people I love.
We were glad to share not only God’s good news with you but also our very lives because we cared for you so much. – 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (CEB)
Appropriately, Easter was the center of this labyrinth. Five months in and six months out – the way out was definitely different from the way in.
The way out was more difficult personally. I was forced to really consider and define my call. I had to learn how to say good-bye to a community I love and the only church I’ve really known. The way out was emotionally exhausting. It tested and stretched me in many ways.
But it was also beautiful.
As a worshipping community, we learned how to say good-bye well. We experienced what it means to be the Church and to be united with Christ. In the labyrinth, the Sacraments became deeper and richer to me and my ministry. I will be eternally thankful.
What did I leave in the labyrinth? My church? Part of my past? Part of myself? Yes.
What did I take out? Really, these same things – just redefined, reborn and renewed. God is good.