Healing Through the Lens of the Labyrinth

This we know: to go forwards, sometimes we have to go back—looking at the stories that formed us and the path that led us to where we are today. Here, Training Team member Melanie Lindell writes about her experience in a labyrinth, a stunning, physical reminder that, often, the only way out is in.

Small wisps of smoke and barely visible candlewicks were my only guides as I began my first labyrinth walk. Flooded with anxiety and wonder, I added my shoes to the pile already formed in the corner. A quick scan of the room didn’t provide me what I was looking for. Each person’s pace was different—quick steps, pauses, kneeling, praying, but nothing to grasp firmly to ensure that I was “doing it right.”

I could feel my chest rising and falling with each breath as I traversed through what seemed like a never-ending maze. The internal chatter grew into a yowl as I tried to make some sense of this foreign act. With a sigh of relief that I didn’t trip, step out of bounds, or cause anyone else to take a tumble, I arrived at my destination. I knelt down in the center and began to pray.

My watchfulness gave way to a time of reflection, and when my heart was ready I rose to my feet to exit. Confusion quickly settled back in as I didn’t know how to get out. I scoured the many corridors in my mind for a logical solution, but none came. I soon realized that the only way out was to go back the way I came. With a bit of a huff, my feet commenced movement across a landscape I had already walked.


Image by Luca Galuzzi – Creative Commons

I believe our healing journey is much the same. We are to return, to retrace our steps, to use the first set of footprints as a beacon to light the pathway.

The gospel invites us to move in a manner that pushes back against cultural norms. If you want to be the greatest become a servant, and if you really want to be healed, return to those places where the wound first came.

If you really want to be healed, return to those places where the wound first came.

Admittedly, I am not fond of this invitation. I have expended endless amounts of energy looking for and/or creating emergency exit routes—routes that have the appearance of being undeviating and the illusion of a finish line, at least for that one story.

There is no playbook for unspeakable pain, though I want one. It takes great courage to step back into places of trauma, and yet when we do, the topography is changed. Whether I stomp or step gently, the footprint left behind serves as a marker for both where I have been and how far I have come. And because I have been there before, the steps I take in returning will not be experienced in the same way they were when I first took them.

I am both grateful and irritated that our sanctification process is for a lifetime. It is an inner war that rages between wanting solutions to end the uncontrolled horror within and yet simultaneously needing the immense grace that comes with time, knowing that some paths will need to be traversed again and again.

The healing process is not linear. I am rarely, if ever, comforted by the timetable. The vast majority of the path is not well lit. Few, if any, mile markers exist to provide orientation, nor is the path abounding with caution signs warning of the dangers that lie ahead.

And yet, when I am honest, I can also hold the truth that not every step I take involves pain. There is beauty to behold, moments to sing and dance, places to sit and catch my breath if I am willing to surrender to rest, and even a companion or two at times to keep me company.

Emergency exits are alluring. We can eject from the torrent of pain in the moment, but ultimately these routes don’t lead to healing. Healing comes as we return, and some stories require a lifetime of traversing.

May we receive God’s gracious gift of time to tread, to linger, and to celebrate the courage it takes to return when at times we would just as soon forge ahead.

Enter into the labyrinth of your own story of healing by experiencing The Story Workshop, a profound event that invites you to traverse the themes within your own life, offering encouragement and wisdom as you seek to understand, write, tell, and live your story in deeper and more transformative ways.

The Story Workshop is coming to The Seattle School on August 16-19. Stay tuned for more upcoming date announcements.