Recently, The Leadership Institute held a Stakeholders retreat at the
beautiful Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles, CA, which is where the labyrinth Jan mentions is located. We hope you enjoy Jan's reflection on her experience of richly connecting with God while at this retreat. If you would like to personally experience a labyrinth in a more virtual way and read a brief description of what a labyrinth is, you can click here to find out more.
When I heard there was a labyrinth onsite, I was immediately intrigued. Where am I? What hotel has a labyrinth?! I’m obviously in a unique and sacred place. That was already established when I walked onto the property and felt every beautiful and thoughtful detail giving off a subtle harmonious chorus of gentle and sustainable praise. Nothing was overdone and yet it was rich to the tipping point; peaceful intriguing beauty at every turn; quiet masterpieces humbly waiting to be engaged.
I had only walked a labyrinth a few times in my life, but all of them were rich experiences of connecting with God. I was eager to have another encounter with the living God here in this remarkable place. I knew lots of others would also be drawn to this sacred portal the next day during the free time from our meetings, and I really value solitude, so I determined I would go that night after our sessions.
When we ended our gatherings, it was dark outside and pouring rain, not just a polite dripping of rain typical to this arid area of California, it was pouring. I was determined. I put on my gloves and hat and raincoat and asked the front desk attendant how to get to the labyrinth. He pointed the way with a quizzical look (or perhaps a knowing smile) and politely offered me an umbrella.
It was not as cold as I anticipated. The rain poured off my umbrella in the dark making a beaded shield around me. I was coming out of an intense season where I had tasted fear and intimidation for one of the few times in my life. Evil was too real, too disgusting, too heartbreaking, too grievous. The world is fallen and in desperate need of a Savior. Was I safe here? Did I really want to go out alone in the dark, cold, rain in a place that was not familiar?
I passed the solid stoic chapel that only seemed more resolute and stable in the dark rain. Its cupola seemed to emanate a reassuring light that glowed in the dark like a landlocked lighthouse.
I stepped into the “womb” of the labyrinth. Typically, an open path invites one into a labyrinth; but in this pattern, a closed circle compelled me to intentionally step into it, choosing to be formed. I stood still in that birthplace for some time, contemplating my life, my existence, my formation. The word God had gifted me recently for my journey was “delight.” I chose to be saturated in delight from this “womb” and somehow also receive all the delight from my own literal womb experience until now. My parents must have been delighted to find out they were having twins. Delight was there from my foundation.
As I stepped through the door of the “womb” and began my journey on the labyrinth I prayed for God to open doors that were closed and close doors that need to be shut. Sometimes doors to the past need to be shut; sometimes they need to be opened to let in light. I inched my way forward. Doors to the future opened.
A resonant tone vibrated through the wet night as I triggered the first sonic pitch. This one-of-a-kind sonic labyrinth responds with sounds as you move through its passages. I anticipated the sound, since I could see the trigger point, but I did not anticipate the response I would have. The tone sounded eerie to me as it resonated through the soggy blackness. It seemed to surround me from somewhere “out there”, similar to the elusive evil, the outside forces, that had recently invaded my innocent peace.
I felt intimidated and small yet significant enough to elicit a musical note, as unnerving as it may have been. I inched on, determined to face whatever is ahead on the road, knowing that God is with me. The path in front of me was saturated and looked almost like a miniature river. “Rivers of joy”, I thought. Delight. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God (Ps 46:4). I was following that river to the city of God.
The next tone still sounded ghostly, but I passed it with more confidence and resoluteness. Approaching the next sonic prompt, I paused just before it, anticipating the disturbing tone, then chose to trigger the sound as if standing up to all the intimidating bullies in the world. Something was beginning to well up in me. My lips curled up at the corners as the rain made a rhythm on my umbrella and cascaded over the edges like a waterfall. This was a fun game. I paused before next the tone post and may have let out a slight chuckle before I engaged it with something akin to joy.
I moved on playfully, talking to God in between each tone, receiving His delight, noticing each post with a pause, choosing to activate a sound that would resonate through the universe, until finally I moved seamlessly through them continuing my dialogue with God as I moved toward the “city” from where the stream was flowing.
I suddenly remembered of one of my identity statements: “I am a curious warrior, not afraid, even of dark places. I will be given the treasure of darkness for myself and others.” (Is 45:2-3)
Gentle joy and delight dripped out of me like the falling rain. Treasures of darkness. How could I forget? This is who I am. No wonder I was drawn to the silent, wet, darkness in order to send reverberations into the night. Allegretto, the name of the place where I was encountering God, was one and the same as the joyful beat of my heart.
I small struggle ensued in me; the decision between skipping the rest of the way through the labyrinth or moving slowly to make the experience last.
As I exited “the womb”, I was birthed anew and found myself spontaneously singing Joy to the World, one of my favorite carols. The Lord has surely come. Let every heart prepare Him room and let heaven and nature sing! Even if the tones at first sound eerie.