Friday, December 16, 2011

{A Pilgrimage}

It is a brisk Saturday morning as I walk to the bike rack, a thermos of warm coffee protecting hands from biting wind. Unlocking the yellow-bike-with-wire-basket and straddling the seat, I begin the short ride to a local church. I tentatively pedal to the back, feeling more than a little like an intruder and wondering if perhaps I have come to the wrong place. But a few pedals more prove my doubts wrong, as circling white lines painted upon a large concrete square meet my eyes. Just beyond the labyrinth, and directly in line with its center, stands a large tree with the glowing light of morning creeping around its trunk and through branches and leaves. A wooden bench lies at each corner of the labyrinth’s concrete base, and using the panels of the back-right the sun casts a giant shadow. 

I lean the bike against the front-right seat and enter the labyrinth’s path. 

At first I walk too fast, perhaps just eager for the journey, or perhaps not wanting too long to be faced with my own thoughts. Whatever the reason, I slow my steps, putting one foot directly in front of another like a tight-rope walker. My mind quickens as my feet slow, and I start to wonder upon what I should be meditating. As I attempt to ponder the rusty verses, I am discouraged my failures in the discipline of Scripture memorization. The words, once readily recited, fumble and stumble off my lips—the dust of neglect practically spilling from my mouth. At last I come to a passage I can remember--
the result of many-a-half-hearted endeavor to revive my previous intentionality--Romans 8:31-39. I take hope when I recall first verse of Romans 8: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." As I walk to the center, I consider the words in my mind--those famous words that assure “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Suddenly the words of Psalm 46:10 interrupt my previous contemplation: "Be still and know that I am God.” It is as if God is telling me, “You have plenty of time on the return. For now, let this truth be enough.” 

As I continue to perambulate, following the simple in-out trail, I repeat the words of the psalm out loud. I speak slowly, annunciating each word precisely, emphasizing a different word each time. In tandem, my mind asks questions and wonders, and my heart gradually becomes quiet. In this time I begin to notice the beauty of the space in which I walk. The tree and benches mentioned earlier, and the leaves imprinted on the labyrinth’s concrete base. 

When at last I reach the middle, I am unsure of what to do. I sit down cross-legged for a time, then kneel, knees against cold concrete. I pray. It is a prayer of overflowing joy at the beauty of the earth, and earnest longing to know the Creator of that beauty more fully. Even though my voice is croaky with the earliness of the day and sickness, I sing--fragments of favorite hymns passing over smiling lips. Eventually, I become both silent and still, until I feel peace at the idea of leaving. On my returning stroll, I repeat the passage in Romans out loud again and again. I desire to recite it with confidence, remembering also the confidence of Paul’s words—“For I am sure.” 

As I get back on the yellow bike, I cannot but help desire to return. The labyrinth strikes a chord within my soul; I appreciate the necessity it places me under: the necessity of completing the journey. I later ponder that the labyrinth is also a perfect picture of my semester: I have never felt more uncertain about the direction in which my education, relationships, and life are headed. The numerous turns and twists dizzy, yet in the very middle of these, like in the middle of the labyrinth, there is a center of rest and shalom. I have never felt more uncertain, but I have never been more convinced that the world is a beautiful place, given by a beautiful God.

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