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I took a walk in the labyrinth this morning. While walking, it felt as though my ball of stress and anxiety over a variety of things could be slowly unraveled along that path. But the thing that especially stood out to me today is how the path starts and ends. 


I’ve noticed in a couple of labyrinths (may need to do some labyrinth design research later) that near the beginning of the path it takes me right near the center. I always have to think twice, because it feels like I’m about to reach the middle, but then I know that enough time has definitely not elapsed. I have certainly not walked the majority of the path. Sure enough, as I follow the path, it takes me back to the outskirts of the circle. 


I received some disappointing news this week. I’ve been pursuing some major life changes, and that has led me down a path of incredible hope and excitement. There are dreams that I’ve had for nearly ten years that I may see come to fruition in the near future. But then I got an email this week detailing a few more bumps in the road toward those dreams than I had hoped for. It feels as though I have hoped in vain. I feel foolish for thinking things would be so easy. 


Today on the labyrinth, as I was led close, but not quite to the middle at the beginning of the walk, and then led to the outer circles, I thought about this disappointment. I was hoping for a clear and straight path toward my dreams, toward the center if you will. Yet the truth remains, that I am still on the path of the labyrinth. It’s winding and not at all straightforward, but I can be assured that if I keep following, I will reach the center eventually. 


God comforted me in this assurance this morning. He also reminded me that many good and true things feel winding and not straightforward. The Gospel itself--that God became man in Jesus, so that He could live, die, and rise again as the firstfruits of salvation for humanity--is really not straightforward at all. Yet I find that the complexities only make it more beautiful. 


So my prayer this morning is that the complexities of my life, even the disappointments and failures, will only make room for more of God’s beauty to shine through.


(UPDATE: The dream was to move to Pakistan! I have happily lived here since March 2021)

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I’ve been really into labyrinths lately. There are a few great ones in San Francisco. One is up at Grace Cathedral. I paid it a visit today after years of intending to, because I've really been craving some quiet prayer time...I live in a loud neighborhood and generally prefer to surround myself with the noise of music and podcasts. So I made my way up there because I have a ton of decisions to process in my life and desperately need to spend time listening to God about all the changes. A nice little walk around the labyrinth gave me the space I needed this morning. 


Did you know that labyrinths aren’t puzzles, but windy paths?


Any labyrinth plaque will tell you this. Contrary to popular knowledge (and even appearance), they are not mazes or puzzles. It’s hard to tell when looking at all the twists and turns, but as you walk it, you find that you never have to make a decision about where to go. There are no dead ends, no wrong turns. This reminds me of my favorite Psalm, number 139. Life can take us many places--to the heavens or the depths of the grave. But the hand of God extends to each and every one of those places. 


I thought about this as I walked the labyrinth. I spend a ton of my time stressing about whether I’m making the right decisions for my life. I’ve been known to get overwhelmed on my days off because I want to spend my time in the best way possible--I don’t want to waste my relaxation. I want to do relaxation (and, you know, everything else) “right.” Yet, the more life I live and the more time I spend in prayer and silence, the less convinced I am that there’s a perfect path that my life has to follow. It’s like the difference between a tightrope and a labyrinth. The labyrinth is a place of clarity and exploration, not risky decisions or potential wrong steps. 


Along the bizarre path of the labyrinth, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of switchbacks. You walk down one direction for ten steps and then it has you turn back and walk in the direction you just came from. Does that feel like a spiritual analogy to anyone else? I feel like I walk the same paths with about six inches of difference over and over again. (I have over ten years’ worth of journals to prove this.) Sometimes I’ll pick up a journal from high school and find that I’m currently dealing with the same problem again, just six inches over now. That can be frustrating, but if the point of my life is to have fellowship with God, and that issue I keep dealing with has brought me to Him over and over again from different angles, then I guess I can’t complain too much. My role is to walk around in the space that He provides--exploring Him and His nature. Exploring His love for me. 


I could write a substantial list of the spiritual truths I glean in labyrinths, but I’ll stop there for today, leaving you with the point--find space for quiet exploration. Stop obsessing over staying on a perfect path. Maybe you can explore this at labyrinth near you? Give it a Google and find out.

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I listened to this podcast story from The Moth a couple months ago, where a guy shared about writing haikus. He was living in New York and feeling frustrated about the honking and traffic outside of his house, and he began writing haikus (called honkus) about it. Something he said stuck with me for the last few months: writing haikus felt like a way to add structure and order to the chaos of the traffic. 


If you’ve forgotten, a haiku is a very simple poem structure of 5-7-5. Here’s the best way I’ve found to remember it:

Haikus are easy.

They aren’t very difficult.

Refrigerator.


I was feeling particularly frustrated by some things a few weeks ago, and I found myself thinking about this statement of writing haikus to make some structure out of chaos. Culture shock is a complicated thing to explain and experience. Thus far, I’ve found that it comes in waves. Sometimes it feels like I’ll just continue cycling through the stages of culture shock over and over again. I’m just hoping that they’ll get less extreme with each cycle. 


The latest wave of culture shock has left me with this desperate feeling of needing to break free. I think a lot of it probably has to do with language barriers--it’s hard to not be able to really express myself to most people I talk to here. I’m always trying to figure out how I can communicate what I want in Urdu--knowing that I could say it more easily in my mother tongue. The other aspect of this need to break free, I think, comes from the simple fact that my life is way less independent here. There are safety issues and cultural issues that limit my freedoms. My roommate needs to know where I am after dark. I have to go to certain places if I’m going to do a walk alone. I need to cover a certain way in my neighborhood or bear the weight of dozens of men (and women) staring at me. 


So I’ve been feeling really rebellious lately--like I just want to break every rule and do whatever I want. And that is a bit of a chaotic feeling. So I’ve been writing haikus about it. I’ve found it to be a really nice spiritual practice. It’s helping me to process things I’m feeling, but then dissolve them down into five and seven syllable statements. I’m certain I’m no budding poet, but often the art we create is more for our own good than for public consumption.


My rebellious heart--

Finds every rule it can break,

For the adventure.


Haikus are easy.

Why don’t you give it a try?

Refrigerator.


(DISCLAIMER: this post was written in 2021, when I was still settling into Pakistan and does not necessarily reflect my current experience)

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