Mid-workday early this week I left the church office to walk the Prayer Labyrinth in a grove of trees behind our Education Building. Saying that, I must begin this reflection with two confessions:
Confession 1) It had little to do with prayer. I needed a break, an escape from my desk for a few minutes. If I announced “I’m going for a walk,” I’d feel obligated to take my phone. Moreover, the secretary would come find me if I anyone had a question about anything. But saying, “I’m going to walk the Labyrinth,” results in fifteen minutes of uninterrupted quiet and solitude.
Confession 2) I took a broom. I am compulsive about sweeping the little pea-gravel rocks off the stone path dividers. I’ve never seen anyone but me walk the place. How do they get there? Do other secret prayer-walkers nudge them as they walk, immersed in contemplation? Do squirrels move them? Do Satan’s minions place each of them individually, knowing the stones drive me to distraction! In any case, I managed to turn a prayer exercise into a janitorial project.
So I proceed to the center of the Labyrinth, sweeping as I go. I’m aware my sweeping is all about my unceasing need to tend to the church, obsessively addressing problems, fanatic about wanting everything taken care of. No sloppy allowed! Yet all my enlightened self-awareness has no power to make me stop sweeping.
Accept it, folks: you have a pastor who’d rather sweep stones than pray.
Reaching the center, I pause. Every path marker is now clear of rocks. If the U.S. Gov’t Labyrinth Quality Enforcement Officer shows up for a surprise inspection, this place is ready. I toss the broom outside the boundary of the labyrinth. I begin to retrace my steps from center to beginning, my hands now in my pockets (to prevent me from picking up single stray stones.)
Quietly, I begin to realize: when I am finished my work at this church, when my stone-sweeping is no longer needed, when I have tossed aside all my brooms, there will still be a path for me to walk. And Christ will still walk beside me. I know, dear reader, you figured this out long ago. I’m still working on it.
“Did you have a nice walk,” she asks as I return to my office. “Oh, yes,” I reply. Yes, indeed.