Fasting from shoes...feasting on Holy Ground
We visited Borrego Springs Ash Wednesday afternoon. I went alone to the outdoor labyrinth at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. It's beautifully designed, using the elements of the desert -- sand and stone and cactus. The paths are raked, hard-packed soil, but still pebbly with a few stickers. For the first time since I began walking this labyrinth several years ago, I took off my hiking shoes and socks. What an amazing experience.
As I began to walk, I became aware of God's presence in a way that caused me to drop to my knees more than once. I was indeed on sacred ground, feeling at once overcome with awe and also one with Christ in the wilderness and with those of his children who have no shoes.Sections of the labyrinth were muddy, and at first I started to step around themud, then I waded through it. I was reminded of my time on staff at World Vision (an international Christian humanitarian agency)and a visit I made to
Guatemala, especially, I thought of the children I saw scavenging in the garbage dumps of Guatemala City for food, or for items they could sell to buy food. They were barefoot, clothing dirty and raggedy, the stench of the garbage in the humid climate was almost unbearable.
I became one with them in my heart and prayers as I walked the labyrinth . With
each step I thought of Christ's words ... "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." And I examined my heart, searching for ways to better help those in need who live near us.
At the end of my walk, my feet were encased in mud. I had brought only enough water to take my medication, but needed it for my feet. I poured it sparingly. The water became symbolic of its precious scarcity among the poor. Images came to me again -- of the poorest of the poor throughout the world and here, close to home. Refugees displaced by war or droughts, walking miles barefoot, without potable water.
Another image came to me as I knelt looking up at the cross from the center of the labyrinth: my first foot washing experience at St. Hugh's in Idyllwild soon after my husband and I joined the Episcopal Church, and the humble priest who wept as he washed our feet.
It's hard to describe all that the Spirit brought to my heart and mind during my time at the labyrinth. I just know that the experience helped me grow to a new point of
recognition, of understanding, of prayerful awareness, and of awe. And I am
It also strikes me that in "fasting" from wearing
shoes, I "feasted" in this place, walking on this sacred ground, experiencing
God's presence in an incredible way.