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Following the Path to the Center of God’s Will

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As I was driving in the early morning rain to a meeting, insight from my walk the day before crystallized.

I want my faith journey to be like a labyrinth and not like a maze. I want to promote peace, not confusion; to bring healing, not hurt.

I want the prayer, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace,” to be a living, breathing organism inside me that reveals itself by the power of the Holy Spirit every nanosecond of the day.

I felt drawn to get up from my computer, silence my Blackberry and go for an afternoon walk in one of my favorite places, Brookside Gardens. After strolling around the beautifully manicured grounds, soaking in the fragrance of the flowers and studying a sunbathing turtle with its webbed feet sticking out, I started toward the labyrinth.

From a short distance, I saw a middle-age couple standing and kissing in the center of the circular area.

The labyrinth is a popular place; children enjoy playing in the eight concentric rings that form its winding path. This labyrinth is a playground for them, not the place for reflective thought that labyrinths were originally designed to be.

On a previous visit with a friend when I tried to walk the labyrinth, I grew annoyed when two children ran into the circle in front of me and kept running around.

But this time amid my Lenten season praying and fasting, I entered in a different spiritual place.

So when a little boy about 5 and his younger sister came into the labyrinth a few minutes after I started, I focused on the path.

The little boy, his face bright and earnest, walked behind me as we moved in and out of the flowing walkway. His sister, on the other hand, beautiful and energetic, charted her own course.

“Stop cutting, Lisa. You’re cheating,” the little boy told his sister as she gleefully skipped back and forth across the lanes. “Stop cutting.”

I saw myself in both of them. Sometimes I have dutifully followed along, trusting that God would lead me to the center of his will. I read the Bible, prayed, fasted and did what I knew to be right.

Other times I have willfully taken shortcuts or awkwardly maneuvered around obstacles to make my own way in situations; I stopped short of seeking God’s guidance or felt that he was taking too long to get me to the place where I knew I needed to be.

Now I strive to be where God wants me to be.

When my newfound shadow and I reached the center of the labyrinth, we rejoiced together, each of us raising our arms triumphantly as if we had just obtained a prize.

Neither of us took the walk back through the labyrinth and out, as is suggested for completing this brief journey. The boy’s parents, who were standing on the sidelines, were ready to move on. And I noticed three girls running to the area and decided to go sit on a nearby stone, observe and meditate.

I sat there for several minutes, releasing to God the remnants of a busy weekend and the challenges of the coming week.

I watched as families of all hues and nationalities passed by, bringing to mind the sobering tour I took of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial and Museum and a recent meeting of the diverse Baptist group of which I am a part.

A flow of thoughts led to this one: “Follow peace with all men …”

It’s not always easy to do that while operating in my own frail humanness, but my goal is to try to follow the peaceful path.

Pursuing that route is far better than bumping about in a complex maze of walls, dead-end corners and confusing turns.

My prayer today is that God will lead me and I will follow. I can be sure that God’s singular path is the clear, sure way.

This cannot be a solitary walk. Won’t you join me in pursuing peace as we go about our daily doings? You and I – and the world – will be better for it.

Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb is president of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention. She blogs at Soul Rhythms, where this column first appeared.