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Let Me Be Where My Feet Are Today

Updated: Jun 23



We put one foot in front of the other and the next step is revealed only as we are in movement. This demands a great deal of trust and listening for the whispers of the divine along the way.” – Christine Valters Paintner

 

I’ve walked this path before. My feet know the ins and outs of the small labyrinth tucked away between this church and cemetery mere miles from my childhood home. The familiar sound of children’s laughter in the daycare building behind me is like the Call to Prayer signaling the start of my walk.

 

I have internalized the number of turns, the winding concentric circles that move toward the center. I know where the trail bends and how long it takes to walk it. I approach it as an exercise of familiarity, the well-worn way that has kept me company over the past four years when not much else around me has remained stable.

 

Yet today only a few steps into my silent pilgrimage, I stop. I feel a tug in my soul to look at the path anew. “There’s something you’re missing,” a voice says, “by not really looking. Slow down.”

 

Instead of scanning the way ahead, I crane my neck forward so all I can see are my own feet. I force myself into a painfully slow pace. I narrow my gaze to only the next step ahead. Suddenly, the path looks different. I’m uncertain how far I have walked or how much yet stretches out ahead of me. I force my view to remain only on the tiny pebbles crunching beneath my sandals.

 

I see each rock beneath my shoes—the shades of gray and black, the way the grass has crept up between them over these past few years. The once tidy lines of the walkway are jagged now, changed by time and wear. There’s one brick in the smooth winding lane that juts out of place. Cracked, it doesn’t quite fit the spot it once neatly slid into.

 

I realize my soul is much the same as this winding lane, altered by the elements that act upon it, transmuted by the people who walk with me.

 

 

“The way is made by walking.” – Antonio Machado

 

I think back to the first step I took on this path. The labyrinth was brand new the first time I walked it. The stones were freshly laid, and the way ahead was untrod. It was the summer of 2020 when the world had screeched to a halt.

 

We all walked a little slower in those days, timidly stepping outside our homes for the first time in weeks. We tiptoed back into a world that looked different than only months before and we were all a bit wary of how much more change we could bear.

 

So much looked unfamiliar to me then and the way forward was unclear.


Nothing in my hometown looked familiar anymore after my family had moved around the world and back. South Asia had left an indelible mark on our souls that other people couldn’t see. We knew we weren’t the same people who had left the Deep South two years prior, but no one else could understand the internal shift that left us forever outsiders in the place we called home.

 

It was coming back to a “home” that was forever changed which gave me the freedom to finally claim my own change, to make a new way simply by walking it.

 

Part of that new way was my journey into the Episcopal Church. I had only begun to walk down the Canterbury Trail and I so longed to know the right steps forward. My feet trembled as I found my stride into wide open spaces, where before I had walked inside tightly defined lines, afraid to step outside the bounds of what was acceptable in an evangelical expression of faith that didn’t fit.

 

I walked away from the person I had been for so long, the one I had pretended I had to be to please others. Like a newborn learning to take her first steps, I lurched forward, not sure what I was walking toward. But I knew I was eager to arrive there and leave behind who I’d been.

 

I don’t remember how I heard about the labyrinth being built at a church I’d only driven by for years, but I do remember my surprise that this particular church was installing one. Housing nearly two hundred years of history, the tiny white chapel embodied all the complexity of faith in the American South.

 

A newly erected monument in the graveyard named the formerly unnamed slaves buried there and lamented the reality that more would never be recognized. The church was embracing its identity—all of it. It was both the church that erased those who built the community in which it existed and now the church that attempted to name injustice and right it. With each step forward, the story shifted. The past was still part of the story, but not the whole story.

 

Maybe I could be the girl from Georgia and the woman whose heart resided in the Middle East and South Asia, who lived in this perpetual space between wanderlust and rootedness. Perhaps I could be the young evangelical who learned to wade deeply into the Scriptures but who drew narrow boundaries around the truth and now the woman who stepped up to the pulpit she’d been told was not rightly hers to redraw the lines of the gospel to include everyone. 

 

As I stepped onto the path that first day, I wondered—What yet might I become? Each new step birthed her into existence.

 

I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it. I circle around God, around the primordial tower. I’ve been circling for thousands of years and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song? – Rainer Maria Rilke

 

“Let me be where my feet are today,” I whisper, a mantra I hold to as I take tiny steps toward the center of the labyrinth. My heart has been in turmoil lately, unable to rest in one place.

 

So much looks unfamiliar to me now and the way forward is unclear.

 

As the fifth anniversary of our return to Georgia approaches, I can only seem to dwell on the hopes I had for life in this place that hasn’t materialized—the not yets and waits we face, the liminal space my family still inhabits after half a decade in this familiar yet strange land. Did it change or did we? I can only seem to rush ahead to the desire for the next place, the landmark that will say, you have arrived.

 

When I finish my degree and carry the title of Doctor will I then feel I am enough? When I am finally ordained, will I be able to sit down this restlessness of perpetual walking toward a calling that feels just out of reach?

 

I suddenly arrive at the center of the labyrinth, shaken out of this place I’ve been residing—stuck between the shaky past and the uncertain future. “Be. Here. Now,” I state with each breath as I turn in the center to face the way out—the way forward.

 

Again, I focus on my feet. Suddenly, I realize I haven’t walked this path before at all. I walked another that existed four years ago. On that path, the wayward brick was still in place. The grass hadn’t pushed its way up between the lanes. The black shine was still on the stones.

 

That path is contained in this one—echoes of what it once was still reverberate through this current moment. But all in all, it isn’t the same path—worn down by many feet, stones washed away by many rains.

 

Tomorrow it will be yet another path because I have walked it today. The impressions my feet make on these stones will wear them further down and jostle them from their place. That bottle cap that lay at my feet, which I pick up and put in my pocket, is no longer a part of the landscape.

 

I change the place by my presence. I am changed by this place, by this moment.

 

I step off the path and take my mantra with me, reminding me to pay attention to the path that is right in front of me. Because tomorrow it will be gone. Tomorrow I will be new, like the mercies made new to me each day.

 

I take one step intentionally, then another—making the way ahead as I walk it in ever-widening circles toward God and who God created me to become.

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