by Racquel Ray, Assoc. Minister (Acting)
As I approached the labyrinth in the churchyard my mind was racing with the list of things I still had to do. The weather certainly was not cooperating, a misty dreary day had turned into an icy, snowy night. Visibility was low, my glasses were foggy and covered with cold droplets as I gathered my basket filled with battery operated candles, incense, and a sage smudge. Bundled against the cold and damp night, I wore my heaviest parka; glad I was finally able to afford such a luxury. I gave thanks for my warm coat, waterproof boots, and insulated gloves recalling so many similar nights without such provisions against the weather; how many days I waited at the bus stop or walked to meet my children from school while bitter cold dampness soaked my layers of inadequate clothes.
I removed a glove to ‘light’ the candles and with my remote could change them to any color. I chose a rainbow of color and set the candles around the turning points of the labyrinth. It was dark but the snow had coated the grass walkways with an icy fur that crunched underfoot. The brick edges of the walkways were clear having been warmed earlier in the day with rain. They perfectly outlined the white snow-covered paths. ‘Paths’ I though as I crunched and stooped. I circled the maze with incense, my lighter starting to struggle against the elements. Crunch. Stoop. Paths. I made my way to the center. Why I felt the need to follow the path rather than just hop to the center I don’t know. I lit the sage smudge and waved it frantically to keep it burning despite soaking snowfall. The cloud of smoke filled the circle. Crunch. Stoop.
Paths. As I waited for visitors to join the circle of prayer, I walked it for myself. How long have I been on this path?! Since 1996. Remember that quote from Isaiah? “Whether you turn to the left or to the right, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” Oh, yes, I remember. And I waited for years for a human teacher to point me in the right direction; left or right. Crunch. And I listened and waited for a path. Crunch. And I walked in it. Crunch.
As my hair began to freeze to my coat, I felt throbbing pain in my hand. It’s cold. I still had my glove off from lighting candles and incense. But now my wet, numb hand wouldn’t slide back into my wet glove. Remember. The prayers and process. The struggles. Crunch. I shoved my hand into the glove as well as I could. The process. Lord, the process. The yes and no. The open doors and closed doors. The discerning, listening, waiting. Remember. Remember that quote from Psalms echoed in Hebrews, “God has sworn and will not relent. You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”? “Melchizedek?” you asked the wisest professor. “Having no heritage; no lineage; no mother and father” he said. God will not relent. Crunch. Listen.
My hands were numb. My feet were on their way to numb. The snow had pasted my hair to my coat, my hat to my hair. My glasses were starting to freeze where droplets had stuck. Crunch. Listen. Remember. Remember that quote from Isaiah and Luke, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to preach the good news.” Crunch. “To proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Crunch. The preaching; friends, colleagues, collaborations. Remember the first time preaching. The power of the preaching classmates. Gratitude. Growth. Good news. Liberation.
For this moment, the snowflakes on the tip of my nose, cheeks frozen, hands throbbing, toes numb. All of that preparation. The path. Crunch. Left. Right. School. Scholarship. Study. Oh, my God. So many pages, so many papers. So many hoops to jump through. Crunch. To stay on the path. Whether you turn to the left or to the right the voice behind you is the voice within.
Within. God, you’ve been here the whole time. Crunch. Sob. Frozen tears. Headlights flashed across the church yard as our first guest to the circle of prayer pulled up. “Is that sage I smell?” Yes. Come into the circle. Crunch. Listen. Left. Right. Sob.
This is why. This is why the trajectory from so long ago led me to this moment. To co-create a circle for others. To walk. To listen. To breathe. To sob. Crunch. Remember the quote from Acts, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” The path. Crunch. Listen. Left. Right…the voice is within.