Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I was introduced to a new religious archetype this weekend, the labyrinth.

Some friends and I were exploring the grounds of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and we found ourselves at the Scarritt Bennett Center, a religious institution and retreat.  We followed the signs toward the garden and found a labyrinth set into the ground with paving stones. It was in the center of a lovely courtyard with trees dropping vibrant yellow and red leaves onto the grass below. The air was fresh with just a nip of cold in it, something that I didn't realize I missed, having spent my fall in humid, rainy Dallas. It was a lovely, affirming morning.

But it got even better.

The labyrinth is an interesting icon. Anthology has taught us that it was an important symbol in Greek myth, Tantric Buddhism, Native American mythology, and Egyptian culture. Many people use it the word synonymously with "maze," but they are not the same thing.

I started at the beginning of the labyrinth, sort of as a lark, but with each turn, I got more and more emotional until I was almost in tears by the time I stepped into the center.  It was such a beautiful experience. My friends and I discussed it and made a few realizations.

The first is that if you look at the center or the other paths, you're going to be confused when the path you're on changes course unexpectedly. The best move, for motion-sickness-avoiding sake, is to look as far down your own path as you can and look for the turn ahead, then look for the next turn after that, and so on, and turn by turn, you'll eventually get where you're going.

The next is that there will be times when you're really close to the center, but your path will suddenly bear farther away for a few moments. It's actually really frustrating being one bank away from the center one moment and then four banks away the next.  But that's how it goes.

The final thought we had is the difference between mazes and labyrinths. As the plaque in the SBC's courtyard explained, a labyrinth has no tricks or dead ends.  There is one path and it always leads to the center if one presses forward long enough.

Do you remember the experience I had with my Heavenly Father a few weeks ago? When His soft, gentle voice told me that it would be okay someday, even though now was shit?  Since then, my life has been exponentially easier.  Don't get me wrong, it still sucks being me in a lot of ways (and it rocks being me in just as many ways [US Grand Prix was this weekend and I was there :) ]), but through it all, I have hope that it will be okay, and the mere presence of that hope makes all the difference.

That's what this labyrinth was to me.  It was proof that life turns out okay, even if the path you're on is circuitous, serpentine, and inefficient.  If you press forward and only look as far ahead as the next turn, you'll get there eventually.

I took a video of the path.  Feel free to watch and experience it through my eyes.

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