Recently, I walked a labyrinth. There are many ways to walk a labyrinth. One can walk it in silent meditation, attentive to each step and breath. One can walk a labyrinth while praying a specific prayer or recalling one’s life journey. This time, as I entered the path, I felt called to pray God’s names on the way into the center, one name for each step. There are many Biblical names for God. For example, Psalm 62 names God as “rock” and “fortress.” The Gospel according to Luke describes God as a “mother hen” who is sheltering her chicks beneath her wings (13:34). As I took each step, I allowed another name for God to rise up to the surface: Redeemer, Savior, Lover, My Rock, Faithful Friend, Shield, Teacher, Spouse, Light in Darkness, Divine Gardener. Sometimes I’d repeat a name I’d already prayed, and sometimes I’d discover a new one, e.g., Heart of my Heart. Praying as I walked, I was reminded of how many ways God had been present to me in the course of my life.
Standing in the center of the labyrinth, I laid down a heart-shaped stone among the many other objects that people had left there—pinecones, pieces of broken glass, a small crucifix—and knew deeply the interconnection between God and self and other, the sense that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
On the way back out, Jesus asked me to name myself. By what names did God name me? Again, I tried not to think too much, but rather to allow names to rise up with each slow step: mother, teacher, wife, friend, blossoming flower, God’s “little one.” Sometimes I’d say one name and its opposite the next step—for example, patient, impatient, free, unfree—naming my real complexities as a person who is still growing and learning. I was also surprised and delighted to notice that some of the names overlapped with the names I had earlier given to Jesus: teacher, friend. Others named my human limits: one who falls down.
At the end of the labyrinth, I knew what name God wanted me to name as a name that surrounds all of these other names: Beloved.
Walking the labyrinth in this way was an integrative and consoling experience for me. But there are many walks to be taken and many ways to take them. If you want to try walking a labyrinth, locate labyrinths worldwide with http://labyrinthlocator.com.
Image courtesy of Picturing God: Faces and Traces of the Divine.