I spent the summer of 2007 studying abroad in Senegal. It was a challenging time for me that brought lots of awareness about global issues that I had never before considered. The summer was also packed with many new experiences (which you can read about in the blog I kept during that time). One particular experience from Senegal has come back to haunt me this summer:
It was a hot summer day – nothing out of the ordinary – and my host parents took me to visit extended family for tea time. As we sat around and drank shots of super concentrated tea, my host mom’s cousin told people’s futures by rolling shells like dice. “Do you want your future told?” I was asked. I’ve never been too keen on these things (once, the Ouija board told me I was going to die when I was 18), but I thought what-the-heck…this stuff isn’t real anyway. So she started tossing the shells and telling me generic things like “you will have a lot of money” and “you will have a lot of happiness.” Sounded great to me, though I didn’t exactly believe her…I was on track to become an artist! Then she started talking about how two different boys like me, and that’s when I freaked out a bit. I had just ended a long-term relationship and was just starting a new one, and it seemed like she knew all about it. She said a few more things, and then, like it was no big deal at all, her final sentence:
“Tu ne vas jamais avoir un tranquille esprit.”
Ha! Great, I thought to myself. I’ll never have a tranquil spirit. Whatever that means. Yet suddenly this summer, that prediction has been ringing ominously in my ears. It has become my biggest fear – that I won’t be able to find peace within myself.
So in addition to the hobbies I wrote about in my previous entry, I’ve made it a point this summer to spend intentional time in sacred spaces: lakes and labyrinths. At first, I thought I’d visit as many of both as I could during the summer. After all, Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and according the Labyrinth Locator, there are 47 labyrinths within 10 miles of where I’m living. But then I realized how far away many of the lakes are and that many of those 47 labyrinths are private. So instead, I visited a handful or two of each, going back to visit favorites many times. Each time, it has become an opportunity for self-discovery; how significant it is for me to simply not talk for an hour! I love these excursions – time to be alone, to see the beauty in nature, to be surprised by the twists and turns of differently designed labyrinths. I remind myself that the tranquille esprit comment was spurred by the positioning of a handful of shells and that in reality, I have much more control over my inner peace. But still, I worry.
I’ve had a few interesting labyrinth-walking-metaphorical-experiences over the course of the summer. There was the angular labyrinth at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that was looong but predictable. Or the one at Como Park that is a crazy design with long, straight stretches that made me feel far away and alone. Or the labyrinth that was overgrown with flowers (my friend Allison helped me see the metaphor – that although the path wasn’t clear, it was still there…and quite beautiful). Or the time that it took me forever to even find the labyrinth! (Turns out it was mowed into the grass…just not recently mowed.) Most recently, I walked a labyrinth at a Benedictine Monastery. It was large and beautiful – grass outlined with brick. But many of the bricks were missing…it looked like they were in the middle of fixing it up. I figured I’d walked enough labyrinths that I basically knew the path by heart – missing bricks don’t scare me. I should note here that I’ve certainly been skeptical about labyrinth paths before, but have always trusted that it would lead me to the center. This time, however, I seriously started worrying that I made a wrong turn. I was afraid that I’d never actually make it to the center at all, but just walk right out! It sounds silly, but I began to cry as I walked faster, wanting to trust the path. Right when I was about to give up, the path sneakily wrapped around to the center. Of course it did! It did, just as it promised it would. Boy oh boy does that apply to my life currently! My trust in general has been broken down this summer, and I have been anxious about the path I’m travelling. And the more anxiety I feel, the more I fulfill that darn prophecy about never having a tranquil spirit.
If I’ve learned one thing from all this, it’s that it is important for me to continue seeking out those sacred spaces. It takes energy and effort to rid anxiety, but it IS possible. Thank God this journey we’re walking is not a maze with dead ends, but a labyrinth whose path will continue to surprise us.
Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.