I was at a writer's conference a week or so ago, working with a team I'm on to produce the 2009 outdoor ministry curriculum published by the National Council of Churches. We spent several days exegeting scripture passages and after awhile my head was swimming. When we got a break one afternoon, I took time to roam the grounds of the Catholic retreat center where we were cloistered for the conference.
Off on one hill, in a secluded spot, was an amazing labyrinth, the path lined with white stones. It was a very hot day, but I was determined to allow myself the time to walk the twisting path and just let the moment come to me. The best part of any labyrinth experience for me is when I become unaware that I've slipped into a focused intention of reaching the center, no matter what. And just when I think the path is about to bring me to that destination, suddenly, I find myself routed all the way back out to the outer ring of the labyrinth, the center no closer than it was when I started. For many reasons, this is always a freeing moment for me, particularly for how it speaks to me as a pastor of youth.
Youth ministry is tough. Like any work with children and teens, it's unpredictable, often unrewarding, and just when we think we've got things figured out and going how we want them, the path shoots us back out where we started. The trick, I think, is to stop forcing our way to the center and just trust the path.