My wife and I visited Ireland a few years ago. It was one of our favorite vacations. The land is gorgeous and green. The people are wonderful and friendly. The Celtic history is inspiring. We stayed in Bed and Breakfasts along the way with wonderful hosts. We had one frustrating experience getting to one of our places of lodging.
We were searching for our home for the evening. We were exhausted from a day of site seeing and travel. We just wanted to settle in. We got close to our home but construction detours made our directions useless. We could see our home, but we couldn’t figure out how to get there. Each time I made a wrong turn, and mind you, I am driving on the unfamiliar side of the road as well, we would be spun out far from our lodging. It became absolutely unnerving. We called our host. His directions were not helpful because of the construction. Finally we pulled into a gas station and asked for help. A wonderful Irish gentleman, a customer at the gas station said: “I know where you are going. I know the way. Follow me in my car.” We did and in a matter of minutes were at our Bed and Breakfast. No wrong turns. No wild unplanned excursion into the Irish wilderness. We were home.
Labyrinths, with ancient origins, can be found in many gothic cathedrals and more recent churches as well. They are not a maze, but rather a path that can be prayed and followed towards the center. I love praying as I walk a labyrinth. Prayer and movement work best for me. Praying while sitting makes me restless. I am better on the move! Labyrinths are a lot like life. The path takes you almost to the center but then in one turn it drives you out to the edge. Like life, we think we’ve got it all figured out, but then something throws us off and to the margins. The path slowly weaves towards the center, with some unexpected twists along the way. While the journey is not a straight line, nor predictable, ultimately labyrinth travelers find their way home.
The labyrinth feels different from our bed and breakfast travel. In both cases I could see the destination, but the Irish journey had a trickster element to it. The labyrinth, though full of twists and unexpected routes to the border, seemed safe and certain. I was walking the path praying to the God who reminds me to simply be still and to trust.
I walk the labyrinth and I pray Psalm 23—It is a journeying psalm. No trickster. No fears. No frustration. The Lord is my shepherd who leads and guides…
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord