What’s Next, Lord?
Over the Fourth of July weekend, I visited my daughter in McKinleyville, a remote town on the northernmost coast of California. The region is sometimes called the “Lost Coast,” and I can see why, because it is often blanketed by mist and clouds. While I was there, the daily temperature never rose above 64 degrees, even as forest fires raged fifty miles inland.
The visit was stunning in many ways, walking on bluffs overlooking a raging sea, hiking through forests with trees as old as time and flowers painted in every shade of purple and orange.
But perhaps the most memorable experience was walking a labyrinth that my daughter had carved into her back yard with a rototiller.
The Labyrinth Journey
Legend has it that labyrinths were used by Christians in the Middle Ages as a faithful alternative to making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Walking labyrinths—praying through them, one could say—eventually became of a way of taking a journey into your soul and asking questions of your spirit that only your Creator could answer.
As I reflect on my labyrinth journey, a few observations sparkle brighter than others. The first is that the focusing question with which I started, and which felt intensely urgent as I entered the labyrinth, became less so with each passing step.
My daughter’s housemate, a novelist, suggested that I let my mind go wherever it wanted to take me, and to allow myself to ponder, tumble, and sit in those spaces for as long as they held my attention.
She also encouraged me to pay attention to my surroundings as I moved over the circuitous path, the horses that whinnied in the corral, the stalks of wildflowers dancing on the Pacific breezes, and the fickle sunshine warming my skin.
Slowing Down to Speed Up
It didn’t take long before the secrets of the labyrinth began to reveal themselves, the first of which was its pace. With its twists and turns, it defied all forms of hurrying in body or spirit. “Just try running” it seemed to taunt me. A skilled dancer or athlete might be able to pull it off, but even they would most likely fall.
Working the Angles
The journey I began so hastily, and from which I was seeking instant answers, required a timing all its own to fully appreciate. Like the labyrinth itself, the question I was pondering could only be fully explored by turning it over on its head and seeing it from another angle–and then another. If it were to be answered in any meaningful way, it would require paying rigorous attention to all the angles, and more likely, to the breezes, horses, and flowers on the journey.
Twists and Turns
I share my labyrinth experience with you because I can think of no better metaphor to describe the moment we are in as a presbytery. For several months, a task group of Council, which represents the diversity of our presbytery, has been meeting regularly to discern God’s priorities–and possible new organizational structure–for us as a community of congregations and mission partners.
The team of fourteen members is prayerfully asking the question, “What’s Next, Lord?” But the process, so far, resembles prayer-walking through a labyrinth more than it does a road trip to Yosemite.
“There are many twists and turns along the way, and a lot to pay attention to,” says Co-Moderator Maggie Goodwin. “The most important thing we have done so far is to make sense out of the presbytery’s assignment to us and embrace its complexity. We even created a ‘Road Map’ so everyone can understand the journey and see the places where their participation is essential. Thankfully, the Council has reviewed the map and likes it.”
So, what’s next for us? A lot of listening and prayer. This summer, the Council is meeting as many sessions as possible to hear what is on their hearts and minds, not only about their own ministries but about how the presbytery can support them. With twenty meetings already completed, our sessions are emerging from the pandemic with many reasons for hope, but also with challenging questions about their priorities as they plan for their respective futures.
No doubt, like a trip through a labyrinth, our presbytery journey will involve circling back with each other multiple times to ensure we have listened well, to pray for each other, and to discern God’s direction for this new season.
I’m looking forward to this continued work of discernment as we seek new ways and structures to cultivate vital congregations and partnerships in Los Ranchos.
With you on the journey,