The Labyrinth


Last weekend I attended a Women’s Retreat at Kloster Armstorf just north of Munich. In the back garden is this labyrinth to walk for prayer and meditation. Eager to try it, I marched out with four other women. We weren’t a third of the way into the path when I felt this ominous discomfort descend upon me. I had a sudden urge to want to flee, and found that I was cracking jokes to break the tension building within me. At one point, the woman just in front of me and I had to step aside to allow others to pass us on their return to the start. I felt an immense relief in just crossing one of the lines.

Afterwards, I sat on the bench behind the labyrinth in the sunshine and pondered about what had just happened – and why I had no desire to do that again. Just the thought of stepping back into the labyrinth filled me with dread. Then it occurred to me why. I felt trapped, like the labyrinth was controlling my movement. Later I asked the woman who had walked with me if she likes walking the labyrinth, ”Oh yes,” she said, “It frees me to think and pray!” It frees her, but traps me?

I can’t stand the feeling of being controlled. So much of my life has been spent trying to free myself of the tyranny of irrational outbursts from female family members. When my parents divorced, we all had to visit a counselor. She told my father that I had crawled into a shell for safekeeping, but that I would be fine because I had clearly thrown a fist at the shell to break out. I was 13, and I remember thinking ‘clever woman’. More recently I have had to literally tear my heart in two to free myself of a virtual leash on a choker collar that was pulled and yanked at another’s whim. (Perhaps there is more therapy in my taking on a dog to train than I thought.) I have paid a heavy price to protect my right to live in a peaceful home that is non-abusive towards me, and any attempt to once again control my movements is not appreciated.

The Labyrinth and I will have to make peace, but I think only by my ‘owning’ it. I will have to spend time criss-crossing the lines and walking it anyway I please. Maybe someday I will be fine meditating in the labyrinth, but for now my wings are simply too weak. They need to fly free and strengthen for awhile.

“Our Father who art in Heaven… forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”


About Lois Loban Stuckenbruck

Trained as a Ballerina, then completed a BA in Business Adm and English Literature at Milligan College. More recently trained to be a lay pastor (Reader) in the Church of England. Wife of a Biblical Scholar, Mother of three. I'm an American who has also lived many years in England and Germany (currently Munich). I have worked as an Editorial Assistant, Systems Manager (Xerox Stars on Ethernet Network), and several positions in higher education fundraising (Alumni and Development).
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One Response to The Labyrinth

  1. kmournet says:

    Dear Lois,

    What a powerful moment that must have been for you! And you describe it so beautifully. It is difficult to have the self-awareness necessary to connect that sort of experience to your own life. I think a lot of people would just say, “Well, I guess prayer labyrinths just aren’t for me!” and that would be the end of it. How brave of you to grapple with the significance of what you felt.

    I too have had the experience of being thrown into labyrinths that were not of my choosing; dark, fraught with pain, in which every step was in a direction I did not want to go. As a consequence it has been a lifelong struggle for me to trust God. I just would much rather do things on my own without any help, thank you very much. But we don’t get very far that way, do we?

    If I may offer a redemptive image of the journey; perhaps the prayer labyrinth is a bit more like the journey of faith with God. We choose to enter it, we take each step in faith, and we know that if at any time we have to change direction, we are free to do so. We are not at the mercy of an abuser or manipulator in this case, but of a God who made us, loves us and wants only our good. There is suffering along the way, and there are hard decisions to be made, but ultimately, this journey ends with God. So we trust the end is a good one, and we can rest in that.

    It is hard, very hard, for me to trust. But I take it step by step. I think by the end I’ll get there! I am so grateful for your words of honesty and grace in this blog.

    Bless you,


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