I knew I had arrived in Harrisonburg, Virginia, when I rolled down my windows and the pungent scent of manure smacked me in the face.
I knew I was back at my seminary when I walked through the doors and inhaled the sweet smells of coffee and books.
I knew I was back with my people as I sat through my friend’s profound capstone presentation and embraced and reminisced with old friends, remembering how loved I am and how well I have loved others.
And after the reunions took place and everyone had returned to classes and homework, I felt the call of the prayer labyrinth.
I’ve written about my experiences with my seminary’s prayer labyrinth in the past. It was one of the few spiritual discipline with which I could authentically and regularly engage during my dark and stormy nights of the soul. One of my favorite qualities about walking the labyrinth was how I didn’t always walk away with new insight or even necessarily feeling better about the state of things when, but I always left feeling God’s presence more than I had previously.
I’m not in a dark or stormy night as of now, but the labyrinth is still a part of my seminary home, and I missed it as if it was a friend. So I walked up the steep hill to it, and when I arrived, I stood and beheld that space of grace and transformation once again.
From my first step on the first stone, a flood of memories began to wash over me.
There were early memories of the young man in college who showed me how to play a guitar while ordering a cheeseburger, and the later memories of the two of us exchanging marriage vows. I turned a corner and felt the nervous giddiness upon walking through the seminary doors for the first time and the heaviness of leaving them for the last time. I gazed out at the Blue Ridge Mountains and remembered the professors who taught me to doubt, to believe in myself, and to look critically at my whiteness. As I caught a glance of the gazebo, I recalled the conversations I had there with my now-husband over the phone, wrestling with our respective callings and vocations.
The labyrinth took me on a journey through key points in my faith journey, with the choruses of both Michael W. Smith’s “Heart of Worship” and Gibbons’ “Almighty and Everlasting God” providing an eclectic soundtrack, because they, too, were part of my journey.
When I found myself in the labyrinth’s center, I did not bow down like I normally did. Instead, I stood tall, with my shoulders back and head high, as if to look God right in the eye.
And as I gazed upon the face of God, I met Her back with a bright, thankful smile instead of my usual snide smirk.
I made the sign of the cross to mark the moment and myself as holy, held my hands out open and wide to accept the grace of the moment, embraced myself in God’s love, and gave a small bow, all to say.
And for the first time in a long time, I said these words without a trace of irony, and only pure gratitude and love:
“Thank you. I trust you.”
As I took the winding path out of the labyrinth in preparation to return to my home in Ashburn, I felt more confident in the fact that I am loved and have loved others well. I walked away knowing I was leaving this home for my other home, and it would still be here to welcome me back again.
I understood that even as I move forward, there is always a home to which I may return.
Thanks be to God.