Thursday, January 13, 2005

Labyrinth, a Life Metaphor

I visited a chapel together with Lingkod-QC brothers and sisters last month. The chapel had a labyrinth built on its floor. We prayed in silence while walking our individual ways through the labyrinth. I had so many personal reflections that afternoon.

I went home eager to post my reflections on my blog. I decided to do some research, however, before doing so, and I found out that there were actually a lot of people who objected to putting labyrinths inside churches and asking Catholics, and even other Christians, to walk in it. The dissenters of the labyrinth claimed that instead of pointing to God, the labyrinth just led people to “the god within”, and thus propagated new age ideas. I read through those webpages, one of which was, had a glimpse of where the authors were coming from, but could not fully share their experience as I was not exhorted to go through the labyrinth under the same circumstances.

Some people actually could pray through the labyrinth, and one such testimony could be read at

I do not intend to join the debate. I would just like to crystallize my reflections by writing about them. As in all things, God looks at the posture of the heart of the person walking the labyrinth, and it may not necessarily be true that a prayerful walk through such a maze could be evil. I don’t know; let me ask God when I see Him face to face in Heaven so I could be 100% sure.

I was writing in my personal journal this afternoon (one which involves a pen and a paper, containing my innermost thoughts that only God could read, not the online kind!) when I realized that my life had taken on so many turns the past few months that it was as if I were inside a labyrinth. I was reminded of the reflections that I set aside.

I walked the labyrinth on my Day of Prayer to thank God for the year 2004 and to ask for His Word for the year 2005. I had all my plans and dreams written down but could not tell, at that time, where the Lord was actually leading me. In my heart I wanted to do one thing but heartbreaking obstacles hindered me from making my most radical decision.

Praying for my future, I started walking the labyrinth. A few people were meditating on it while walking but I figured we need not cross paths anyway. I put one foot in front of the other, much like the characters of Terry Brooks’ books did, at first concentrating on my Game Plan. I wanted to do it perfectly, to find my way through the maze without making a fool of myself. I heard the Lord calling me to slow down and surrender control to Him, because the path had already been laid down before me. It had already been planned and mapped out and I was SURE to get to the center, where He would be waiting to speak to me. It would have been ideal to enjoy a leisurely walk. And yet, wanting to find answers to my questions, I labored through my journey. I talked to God and asked Him what the future had in store for me, why people I loved and looked up to could not understand me, why it was so hard to pursue my dreams. I reflected on verses that I had written down from my prayer time and realized that I was being called to recline my head on Jesus' waiting embrace, like the apostle John, from the Gospel that day. Jesus wanted to teach me His ways and I had to learn to wait on Him.

I noticed that whenever I ran out of patience in my thoughts, I ran out of steps in the labyrinth as well and I would be led to a turn which I did not foresee but was lying there all along. It was like that in life, when opportunities knocked when I least expected them. I did not welcome all opportunities as they tended to confuse me. I kept looking at the center of the labyrinth, calling out to Jesus in my heart, “Take me there, why do I have to keep walking? Take me out of the darkness and confusion I am in about my career/service dilemma!” I could have, really, just walked away and not finish the labyrinth. Or I could have chosen to ignore the patterns on the floor and walk right into the middle. What held me back was the nagging thought that I would regret walking away. I also realized that I would distract other people from praying if I broke away from the path and made my shortcut to the goal.

At some point, Mercy and Ted walked the labyrinth as well. I could not help looking at them to see how they were doing. I heard a voice inside me telling me to concentrate on my path, for each of us had our own journeys and God had already timed everything perfectly so that we could move in the same direction and reach the same goal without crowding the path.

Finally, I reached the center of the labyrinth and I felt a sense of accomplishment that I was able to walk through a difficult journey. I knelt down in prayer and worshiped God who made me, laid out the path for me, and waited for me to make it to His heart. I wanted to stay there and start my little taste of heaven by praying for a very long time, but I knew that the journey wasn’t over. I had to walk the labyrinth again, this time going out into the world to apply what I had learned. Armed with the certainty that I only had to keep walking and God would guide me, I re-traced my steps and found my way to the exit, where I started the journey.

I went through labyrinthine twists and turns in the recent months, from being told by God in my personal retreat that my service in Lingkod QC would end in June 2005; to being tired of being a pleaser in the workplace and not setting boundaries to what I gave; to being scheduled a job interview out of nowhere; to watching a movie (Under the Tuscan Sun) that inspired me to plan to study abroad; to spending weeks and weeks surfing for scholarships and courses; to realizing I was more interested in traveling than in studying; to going to a week-long conference and being asked to consider full-time missionary life; to struggling against my attachments and fears but being so attracted to that lifestyle; to going through 40 Days of Purpose AND intensive spiritual direction to discern my calling; to being so anxious to jump out of my life as I knew it; to talking to my friends about it and getting so much support; to telling my parents and not being able to explain it properly to them; to cultivating deep friendships with new mentors who helped me sort out my feelings; to growing spiritually as I went to Mass more often and lengthened my prayer time; to finding my boss getting promoted and being swept in her excitement; to seeing my workplace improving and all my previous complaints slowly being addressed; to taking part in a decision of national significance that made newspapers quote my words – my words! – without being acknowledged, of course (such is life as of now); to being offered a scholarship once again; and finally, to this point of indifference where I acknowledge that wherever it is that I am going, God surely planned it considering my SHAPE (as the purpose-driven life puts it, Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience) and I would find joy in it.

Just like when I went through the labyrinth, the secret is to just keep walkin’. All these roads would lead me to be united with God and see Him face to face.

Then perhaps, I shall see these words come to pass:

Baruch (Chapter 5, NAB)

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.
For God will show all the earth your splendor:
you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship.
Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.
Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.
For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, And that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God's command;
For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.

I am going on retreat again tomorrow until Sunday. I hope the Lord would speak clearly and conclusively about this particular decision I'm making.

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