Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105, NRSV)
A labyrinth isn’t a maze. There are no dead-ends or wrong turns. Every step we take has a purpose – and each step brings us closer to the purpose of our journey. Life may feel like a maze, but what if it’s really God’s labyrinth?
Sometimes the holy path of the labyrinth includes suffering. Certainly, there are steps and paths we take in life that feel like a wrong turn: sin, illness, death, broken relationships. But these “wrong” turns are part of our human experience. Life isn’t lived without them.
These are not really “wrong” turns or stumbling blocks that God means for us trip over. Instead, we continue on the path of faithfulness despite them as God’s faithfulness continues to lead us to the center. Thank God, we do not walk the path alone.
A labyrinth is often in the form of a circle – a symbol of completeness. If we view life as a labyrinth holding the completeness of human experience, then it’s not really wrong steps that we take – but simply steps on the path. There are no shortcuts through these times as we travel within the boundaries of the labyrinth. Every step has a purpose.
Just as the labyrinth is a symbol of the completeness of our human experience, we can see the boundaries of the labyrinth as the boundaries of our humanity. It is here that humanity meets eternity – and a reminder of the way we are held and nurtured by God. In this way, the labyrinth is also like a womb.
In the enclosed womb of the labyrinth, we cannot see the entire path or what lies beyond its boundaries. We can be so concerned with the boundaries, even growing frustrated by the way they constantly force us to turn, the way we seem to never get any closer to the center. We don’t realize (or maybe we simply forget) that the One who created this holy place for us is not contained by it.
We want everything now, but we may not be ready now. And what we want, may not even be what we need. The confinement of time and space, within the womb, within the labyrinth, bring us freedom and loneliness, intimacy and confinement, clarity and confusion. And we remember that the labyrinth womb has been created for us. A holy place for us to grow, to learn, to find patience, to allow for transformation and new life.
We may not like the path the labyrinth takes us: it’s too painful or confusing or even boring. We might not want its lessons. We may yearn to break free of its confines, not realizing it’s not time to travel the next path. But the journey is sacred and every step is holy space. And though it may look like we travel the same pattern, each journey is unique.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. ~ Thomas Merton