This is one of a series of posts about a trip I took to walk labyrinths in July 2022. See this post to see why I refer to these labyrinths as my “Emmaus labyrinths.” Note: the numbering refers not to how many labyrinths I walked on this trip, but to the total number I’ve blogged about so far.
Located behind the Unity Church of Harrisburg, this is a 7-circuit classical labyrinth, with brick walls and a gravel path. It’s seen better days, and there are lots of weeds growing all throughout it. This was my first labyrinth on Saturday morning, and I didn’t really have a burning question inside me. In fact, this morning I was thinking of this journey as a time to just dwell with God, have time together without the need for the intensity I usually seek (or fear). So I asked this: “I want to walk with you today. What should we talk about?”
As I walked, I pondered why this labyrinth seemed to be so uncared-for. I had noticed that the sign on the church said “EBC Word of Life,” not “Unity Church,” though it’s clearly the right place. Perhaps the congregation had changed its name, or perhaps a different group was now worshiping here. Either way, perhaps the current group isn’t as interested in labyrinths as the prior one was.
It reminded me of when the congregation in which I was baptized, English Lutheran Church, closed. Their building was sold to an independent Christian church. This new congregation wasn’t interested in keeping the baptismal font (their baptismal theology may differ significantly from ours – I don’t know), so I was able to go in and take the font myself!
As I stood in the center, I wondered if perhaps I should do some weeding myself while I’m here. Maybe those of us who walk this labyrinth could take it upon ourselves to care for it. I looked around — I could probably weed the whole thing myself in a matter of hours, but I didn’t want to stay here that long – I wanted to move on. I asked for guidance on whether that’s what I should do. I wasn’t sure if I was being selfish or not.
I decided to start weeding. I pulled all the weeds from the center, and then started to walk out along the path, pulling weeds as I walked. Whenever I had a handful, I’d “jump the path” and walk out to the edge of the labyrinth, depositing them outside. I’d then return to the path where I left, and keep walking. After a few minutes of this, I dropped a handful of weeds, and found myself confused about what ring of the path I was supposed to be on, and whether I should be heading clockwise or counterclockwise. I decided that was a sign that I’d done enough weeding. I looked carefully at the path from the center, and figured out where I was. I continued walking without weeding anymore.
I thought that perhaps I can trust the next person who walks this to pull a few more weeds. I don’t know if that will happen, but perhaps that thought could be a helpful metaphor. Perhaps it’s a good lesson for me to learn today. There’s only so much I can do in the world. I can’t do everything, but I can and should try to do some. And perhaps when I notice that I’m starting to lose direction, when I’m no longer sure where I’m going – perhaps that’s a moment to stop and rethink what I’m doing, and return to the source for wisdom. And perhaps that’s exactly what baptism means, at least to me – being filled and being sent, back and forth. And perhaps that’s what God and I talked about in this labyrinth today – helping and serving, back and forth, back and forth…