A Labyrinth Reflection

A woman stands at the center of a prayer labyrinth, placed at the foreground of stained glass windows.


The labyrinth, all its curved blue lines smoothed out on the canvas, is laid out in the Sanford Davis Room. I’ve walked this labyrinth before. Each time is different. Today, I walk it as an 81-year-old elder, well taken care of, as before. Busy and over-scheduled, as before. How will my walk be today?


My gaze is down. The curves come quickly. After every several steps, I must make a U-turn. So as not to lose my balance, I carefully place my feet on the narrow white path.


Then come the long stretches when one foot in front of the other requires less care. That’s like my life, I realize. All went well during some of my years. I could coast along without big worries. Other years, it seemed like a new problem lurked around every bend.


Gradually I work my way over to the other side, lulled by the repetition of placing my feet on the white lines, and then – suddenly! Without warning! Because I was focusing on my feet, I had no warning. There I am in the center!


Finding the center of the labyrinth can seem like finding God. Again, the labyrinth mirrors my life. When I needed God but least expected God, God was there.


I yearn to stay in the center with God but – like most times in my life -- I do not let myself take time to stay, and I begin the trip back. As I repeat the long stretches and the short turns, I admit that I am sad about being on the downslope of my life’s trajectory. Just like I am nearing the end of the labyrinth walk, I am nearing the end of my own years. I’ve been lucky to have this many years and I’m not guaranteed to get any more.


But I keep walking, lost in this thought. Then, suddenly, without warning, I am back where I began. I have finished the labyrinth.


Is this how my end will be? Suddenly? or with warning? That’s out of my control. What I can control is whether I’m ready, whether I have ordered my life so as to have no regrets.


Younger people may judge these thoughts macabre or at least unnecessary. We elders know better. We know we want to be ready. Our message to our children and our younger friends is... We are born to die. Once you know that, you can more fully live. When you walk on God’s path, you have the joyful surprise encounters with God. When you live so that you have no regrets, you need not fear the end.


Walking a labyrinth can be soothing or challenging. How will it be for you?


Experience the prayer labyrinth for yourself during Holy Week, April 11-15, from 9 am - 5 pm. Princeton United Methodist Church. 7 Vandeventer Ave., Princeton, NJ. Located adjacent to Princeton University.