The clouds were pretty thick when I arrived at the entrance to the labyrinth. I wasn't sure if I was going to get soaked in a down pour, so I wore an over shirt. All trips into the labyrinth require me to first stand before the statues that flank the opening of this maze cut into the grass. I soften my gaze and wait for what I am to contemplate on my walk. Normally, I've had some interesting phrase to ponder. But this time, as I stood before the statues, I felt they weren't going to give me some pithy thing to ponder. Instead, one of them seemed to encourage me to breathe deeply and exhale with a "Haaaaaa". The other... sensing my concern with the question, "Do you love me?" snapped back at me, "Do you?"
On the walk, I acknowledged my fears. How a simple question like, "Do you love me?" can cause me to tremble in my soul. As I focused on my fears, the wind began to pick up and I could hear the piercing peals of peacocks on the adjacent Paynes Prairie echoing overhead. At one point, a butterfly landed on my arm forcing me to slow way down so as to not disturb it. It stayed with me for a couple of steps, opened its wings to reveal the black and orange pattern, and then flew away.
I reached the center of the labyrinth and took a seat on the SSW corner of the stone altar. I pulled out my Bible from my backpack and re-read the end of John 21 starting at verse 15. I just sat with that. And as I did, my mind went to reviewing my history with this particular spot.
I chose to attend Florida School of Massage in large part because I wanted to escape from Tallahassee where I had become "famous". Everyone knew me from my reporting on the radio. But I wanted to be incognito. I wanted to be anonymous. I wanted to be a nobody, where no one knew my name.
As I sat there, again, with that thought, the clouds broke up and I found myself almost directly under the sun. The heat of the rays made me strip off the over shirt. I remembered the story of Jonah, sulking when God refused to destroy Nineveh, and gave Jonah a shade bush... only to cause it to wither and die, leaving Jonah exposed to the sun. A new thought arose in my mind:
"Know you?? Who knows you?!"
This is answered in Jeremiah 1:5:
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.
And from here I made it back to the question that had so troubled me about whether I love this God. Answer: Yes, I do. Because God knows me only too well, and I have known God.
Next came the trickier part: follow me. I looked back at the exit from the labyrinth... which of course was the same way I had come in. Again, the light of the sun was hitting it so strong that with the breeze blowing the tall grasses, there was a bit of a shimmer. And I remembered the passage from Morning Prayer, the Third Song of Isaiah:
The sun will no more be your light by day;
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
I headed back out. As I walked, I wondered if I was really alone on this trek and I got the sense that I wasn't. That, in fact, there were hundreds with me. Only they weren't behind me, but in front of me. My feet were retracing the steps that so many others have taken as they pondered, wrestled with, discerned, panicked, but ultimately did not desert their faith in God.
At the end of the walk were the statues there to encourage me. Time to laugh. Time to smile. And know that all will be well.