“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." – Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
I recognized the rush of anxiety and the ratcheting of my pulse, though nothing stressful was happening. I was relaxing in an Adirondack chair with two close friends, under the copper beech trees of the university green in Newport, Rhode Island. We’d finished grad school the previous year, but all-things Covid had caused us to miss out on in-person time together. Visiting as alums now, we only went to the lectures and author readings we wanted to—my kind of brain candy. There was no pressure.
A familiar wave of heat burst across my neck and chest. Preventing the cancer from returning outweighed the medication’s side effects, but I still had to manage them. Movement helped. I shot to my feet, paced randomly. Then, I caught sight of the nearby spiral maze of steppingstones. The university called it the Labyrinth.
The Labyrinth was about 30 ft. in diameter and at its spiraling center was an engraved stone. What was on it? Stepping onto the path, I asked God to help calm me. When the doctor had told me I had breast cancer, it was as if a clock had started to tick. Surgery had removed the cancer, something I was beyond thankful for, but I wanted my normal life back, to make up for lost time. I felt like I was standing still, and yet watching my dreams recede from me, retreating into the shadows—all while everyone else continued moving forward with their lives, leaving me behind.
Following the outer perimeter of the labyrinth as it curved to the left, I made my way at a pace that wasn’t exactly meditative. On a switchback, I came a stone’s-width away from the center. But then, the path veered away again, leading me with it, and a wave of frustration, much stronger than it should have been, spread through me. This was supposed to be an ancient form of wordless, meditative prayer! I was tempted to cross the barrier of steppingstones and take a shortcut to the center—to get there faster. Instead, I made myself slow down and follow the path, and as I walked, my breaths deepened and eased.
Eventually, the winding path did open into the center. Looking down, I saw the stone plaque engraved with this verse: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."
Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
It came to me then that God hadn’t set me on a dead- end path—that although life sometimes felt like it was filled with switchbacks that took me in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go, God was always leading me toward the center—to him. I will get there if I just trust him with the path.
Reflect: When have you felt like God wasn’t leading you where you wanted to go, but it proved to be the best path for you?