Friday, March 21, 2008

A walk to remember

Nicholas Sparks wrote a book a few years ago called A Walk to Remember. I believe it was made into a movie. The title alludes to two things: walking a girl home (for the first time) and walking down the aisle. It was a sappy, corny novel, but enjoyable on some level.

The Police recorded a song in the 80s called "Walking on the Moon." It's about walking a girl home, too -- and walking back home again. (Verse 2: Walking back from your house, walking on the moon. Walking back from your house. Walking on the moon. Feet they hardly touch the ground, walking on the moon. My feet don't hardly make no sound, walking on ... walking on the moon.) Lead singer Sting wrote the song when he was in his 20s, in love for the first time (So he says in his memoir Broken Music). "When you're in love," he recounts, "your steps are so light, as if there is no gravity."

I've never been much on walking. (I prefer a faster pace.) I can remember walking to and from school in elementary. In middle school, I had to walk to school once when I missed the bus (it was quite a trek). Then there's walking around the track in gym class in high school. In college, the campus was rather large and I did quite a bit of walking. For me, walking has always been a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It took you places (slowly), but otherwise had no real value, therapeutically speaking.

Today, I took a walk. I walked a prayer labyrinth at my church. I had done this one other time a few years back and hadn't particularly enjoyed it. I'm a "close your eyes and get down on the floor" kind of girl when it comes to praying. And although I have been known to pray while I run, the labyrinth requires far too much concentration to facilitate prayer (for me).

This labyrinth's pattern was painted on a huge piece of circular canvas -- probably about 80' in diameter (but don't quote me). You had to look at where you were walking to follow it. How am I supposed to get in a meditative state with so much concentration involved? I found myself stopping, dropping and praying from time to time. This seemed much more meaningful.

I did discover some "symbolism" in the labyrinth as I was walking. I contemplated the curious reality it represents in my faith life ... that of trying to stay close to God. I said to myself, here I am, seemingly walking along the path that God has given me, and yet I'd swear at times the path takes me in the exact opposite direction of God! I thought about the sometimes taxing demands of ministry and how, in the midst of bringing others to God, you can spin right out of your orbit and land miles away off course. How curious!

I also thought about the reality of watching your feet as you walk versus looking up to see where it's all leading. The temptation in phenomenal to hurry along the labyrinth's path with your eyes, the same way your eyes might trace a maze you are trying to solve without committing your pencil to it. Trying to see what was coming, where it was leading, caused me to have to walk even more slowly, so as not to go off the pattern. Yet it was addictive, looking ahead. I was trying to see how long it was going to be before I hit the center of the labyrinth, and my eyes just couldn't move ahead fast enough. No matter how hard I looked, how fast, I couldn't see the complete course to my final destination. And so I stopped trying. Yeah, there's some symbolism in there...

At one point, I stopped, dropped down on the floor and prayed for quite some time. When I got back on my feet again, I had forgotten which direction I had come from. Consequently, instead of landing in the center as planned, I wound up at the entrance again (LOL). So I "cheated" and walked the 4 feet or so to the center.

I had been fortunate in that I had the labyrinth all to myself. If others had been there, I doubt I would have made it anywhere close to the throne room. Sitting on a cushion in the center, I started processing a particular thought, running it back and forth through God's channels. I was deep, deep, deep into it when a loud voice startled me and I "awoke" from that "some place." Darn! I looked up to see who the voice belonged to. At that point, continuing was useless.

So will I walk a prayer labyrinth again? Probably. I think it's important to expand our faith experiences and try different things, lest we be guilty of tucking God into a neat little box. Did I enjoy my walk today? Well, I'm not sure if "enjoy" is the right word. It was certainly different ... maybe even a walk to remember.

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