This week, my Covenant Group went on retreat to Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman. We meet every six months for group spiritual direction in various places. It was an awesome experience for me to bring a group so important to me back to a place so significant in my journey.
About ten years ago, when I was going through a really tough time in ministry, I came to this place for private retreat. I don’t remember why I was first drawn here, but I’m glad I listened to whatever was nudging me. The joy of the silence, the singing of the daily liturgy, the holiness of the space, the richness of the library, and the biblical hospitality of the community opened up my spiritual journey to a chasm of depth. I kept coming back. It led me to eventually to explore the Academy for Spiritual Formation and other avenues for joining the dance of a more contemplative life.
Toward the end of this week’s retreat, I walked the labyrinth near a couple of the others who were feeling meditative as well. Half way through, I came back to a spot close to the entrance, a bend just to the right of the opening of the slender trail. As I stood there looking toward the very center, it occurred to me how often in life I go back to the beginning. Here I am again, back on holy ground where something profound began. Here I am again, at the beginning of another year full of hopes. Here I am again, struggling with relationships and feelings, responsibilities and challenges, seeking the light again. Our lives are much more like this labyrinth than like climbing a ladder. The more we journey, the more we are back at the beginning. And yet we are so much farther along at the same time.
Thomas Merton said of prayer, “We do not want to be beginners but let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!" I hope that 2009 is a year of beginning again. Perhaps it will be for you.