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WE WERE ON RETREAT at a Franciscan retreat center in western New York. It is a very secluded spot on the side of a mountain, where the only thing to keep one awake at night is the heavy wind cutting through the trees.
There, the Friars had built a labyrinth of great proportion. It takes the shape of a circle. The basic idea of the structure was that you enter into it at a designated spot and you begin to walk. Eventually, if all goes according to plan, you end up in the center as an accomplished individual. There's only one catch. By no means is it a journey in which you start on the outside and walk in circles to get to the middle. Rather, it is a complex movement of twists and turns that leave you pacing away from the center just at the moment that it might be closest to you.
Before I began walking the labyrinth for the first time, I stood outside of it and convinced myself of which way the path would run. As I took my first step into the labyrinth, I was rather calm and satisfied with myself because I felt that I knew the direction of the walk. Before I knew it, an unexpected turn left me confused and heading in what I thought to be a wrong direction. I yelled to my housemate, who was in front of me, "I didn't think that it was going to be like this." She turned, smiled, and said, "Reflect on that statement for a while."
There I was. Just a few moments prior I had my map all made out. I was convinced of the direction in which I would walk the labyrinth, that there would be an end, and that from there I would move on to something else. Turns out I was wrong. I began to question how often movements such as this had occurred in my life. How many times had I mapped out my future, only to become surprised by some strange twist that seemed so inappropriate at the time, but so right in hindsight?
I guess what I took from that short walk was that no matter how greatly we may plan or anticipate our future, we must always be prepared for surprise turns along the way. Although they may not appear to be the choices that we would make, they are ever so appropriate. And however complex it may appear, however bumpy the road may get, we find ourselves together at the end, ready to begin again.
• Tim, Philadelphia '03−'04, '04−'05
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