Candlelit Labyrinth

August 31, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

This past Thursday, I went up to Camp Johnsonburg for one day of Family Camp.  It was good to reconnect with friends from years gone by.  I had some conversations that may help my faith growth and/or discernment processes.

This was the last full day of Family Camp for the week.  As a result in the evening there was the special Communion vespers service (I ended up reading the scripture).

After the service, Lorelei led a candlelight labyrinth.  At Camp Johnsonburg there is an outdoor labyrinth made of stones laid on the forest floor under some trees.  At the center is a big tree with a cross leaning against it.  The camp tradition is to carry a stone with you while walking the labyrinth, and to leave it at the foot of the cross when you are done.  The labyrinth has been there 10 years – the stones are in a huge pile covering the bottom 1/2 of the 5′ cross.

I’ve walked this labyrinth during the day alone, during the day with campers of all ages, and twice in the winter as part of a retreat.  Each walk is a different experience (even when you lead it 4 times a day with campers).  But the candlelight labyrinth is VERY different.

I helped set up the candles.  We took tea lights and placed them on flattened silver foil cupcake papers laid on flat rocks around the labyrinth.  Just before we arrived, a few of the Leadership Training Program reunion youth lit them.

It was late twilight when we arrived, and fully dark (on a cloudy night) when we were done.  At the beginning of my personal walk, I was able to see the path without the candles.  By the time I finished walking all the way in and then retracing the path out I could only see the path WITH the help of the candles – and then just barely.  For the first time that I’d walked this labyrinth I was uncertain of my path.  (Indeed, one youth tried to finish and kept accidentally jumping paths.  He gave up and walked out across the stones when he was still going 10 minutes after everybody else.)
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As I write this I’ve been unemployed for over a year.  While I continue to perform my church duties and even take on additional ones, I’m struggling with God:  both with some kind of sense of call, and with frustration with my continued joblessness.  I’ve reached a point where I feel like I believe in God, but I don’t think God believes in me.  And yet I still feel drawn to God and to the religious world and life in some form.  It’s very confusing and very painful.

As I walked this time, a metaphor became clear to me.  I experienced it as a future sermon illustration.  The candles were like God’s presence in the flame (Holy Spirit, if you will).  I had walked this labyrinth many times, but THIS time I was uncertain of the path.  I was only able to see the path with the help of the candles.  So then go parts of our lives?  Only able to see the path with God’s aid?  God is with us assisting us to find our path?

For now it’s just a future sermon illustration and I don’t feel like it applies to me.  I do feel rather abandoned by God.  But perhaps there will be a day when God finally gets around to giving me a path or showing me what the path is, and this metaphor will be more concrete for me.

Next year I’ll be President of the Deacons and need to preach, so at the very least I have an idea to file away for 18 months or so.

May you find your path, and help others find theirs, with God’s help.