Last week, I spent time at the Trappist monastery, Mepkin Abbey, in South Carolina. There were many highlights, which I imagine I will write about in the coming weeks and months. But what has been lingering in my mind is my experience with their labyrinth. I have now walked several labyrinths, but my experience with Mepkin’s labyrinth was a bit unique. When you first approach the labyrinth, it looks like a field of weeds and tall grasses. A casual passerby would miss it (or at least wonder why the monks were slacking on their grounds keeping).
The first time I walked the labyrinth, it was relatively early in the morning. I must have been the first one out there, because there were cobwebs all along my walk in. I found myself constantly clearing the way, recognizing how appropriate a metaphor the cobwebs were for the clearing of my mind I was trying to do. Several of the tall grasses were also bent over into the path, meaning I had to push my way through. Again, I found myself wondering what tall grasses have been blocking my own spiritual journey lately. The final challenge of the walk was the buzzing bugs who seemed to know right where my head was. I suppose I was waking them up or disturbing them, but all I could think about was the buzz of voices who have been frustrating my walk with God lately.
But like any labyrinth walk, once I calmed my mind, and especially after standing in the warm sun in the center of the labyrinth, I began to reinterpret my own metaphors. The buzzing of the bugs were not some outside set of voices agitating me, but instead my own busy mind, distracting me from hearing God. The cobwebs became the habits that have grown in me and my parish that clog up the way to change. Those habits and practices tend to cling to us, but when cleared can make way for a powerful new experience. And those pesky tall grasses became not annoying barriers, but reminders that the journey with God will always have road blocks. One can either turn around the way one came, stand facing the barrier paralyzed, or find a way around the road block to continue the journey with God.
Each time I walked the labyrinth, a new truth was revealed to me, and God spoke to me differently. On my last walk, I had come to a place of real peace during my retreat. That labyrinth walk was almost buoyant, full of joy and praise. What the daily walks reminded me of is that we all need spiritual practices that can help us access new revelations from God. Despite the tendency of churches to dramatically slow down in the summer, I have begun to think about this summer as a summer of seeking at St. Margaret’s. Once again, we are offering yoga on our lawn for parishioners and our neighbors. Parishioners who traditionally participate in weekly Bible study are instead using the summer to participate in spiritual “field trips,” to places like the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island and Little Portion Friary. We still have our mid-week Eucharist on Thursdays and our beautiful cemetery grounds, which are great for quiet meditation. We will also be using this summer for planning more spiritual and formation opportunities at St. Margaret’s for the program year. Our summer of seeking is giving us the space we need to hear how God is calling us into deeper seeking, serving, and sharing Christ in the months to come.