Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mercy is in the Rite, the Symbol, the Friend

It was three years ago today I entered the Labyrinth. While deeply lost in self-made angst and depression I walked the spiraling path unconvinced but hopeful.

They say the devil is the author of confusion. I was certainly confused in my soul and my heart the day I wandered in circles within the Labyrinth. I was weary and carrying a heavy load of self-doubt, self-pity, and wounds. They say the devil is the author of confusion, but I am sure I gave him plenty of help back then.

Three years ago I had a friend along for the journey. She called me the morning of Ash Wednesday and casually asked if we were going to find a church and receive ashes. My friend and I did not grow up in a church which recognized Ash Wednesday but ever since college she and I have found a comfort and a transformational grounding in attending this solemn service.

That morning she picked me up, drove me to St. Mark’s, and sat next to me on the hundred year old church pew. A sparsely attended noon service gave us our own row. We recited the Collect. Our voices melded together as we chanted the Psalm and said the Lord’s Prayer. Three years ago it was Juleen who hugged me to offer the Peace of the Lord. A peace I did not have nor did I believe any was out there for me.

After the service, it was Juleen who followed me through the Labyrinth. Sometimes the path took us to opposite ridges of the circle, but I could see her or sense her out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes the path had us pass so close shoulders brushed, eyes met, and a kind and knowing smile just for me whispered past.

Juleen knelt with me in the center as I put my forehead on the ground and wept. She silently prayed with her head bowed and it all dumped out. Right there. In the center. I felt it and so did she. We both saw it, experienced it, and we left it there. Right there. In the center. I walked out of the Labyrinth lighter. With each step I felt the burdens physically lifting from my being. It was my healing, my deliverance, if you will.

Today is Ash Wednesday—a day to recognize our weaknesses and God’s compassion and mercy for His creation--a day to offer sincere hearts to the Lord.

This morning Juleen and I casually agreed to go to the noon service at St. Mark’s to receive ashes. We chit chatted about surface life in the car on the way. She apologized for being so sluggish--a bad night’s sleep and commented how she liked my hair. It was the familiar, intimate conversation of close friends. But when we entered the church we both knew there was nothing casual about this day or us being together.

Today when Juleen hugged me to offer the Peace it was real and true. The God of all mercy expresses Himself in many ways but one of my favorites is through the soul of a friend.

1 comment:

  1. I entered a prayer labyrinth for the first time last weekend. I looked at it and thought it was a metaphor for my life; doing laps around the same old mountain. I didn't expect much of anything - and, like you, I experienced an unexpected and surprising release and a Word from God when I made it to the center.

    Thanks for sharing your journey.