By Equality Rider Ryan Barnette
Ever since I read Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist,” I have looked for omens. Omens are God-given signs that teach us something about our chosen path. While on the Equality Ride I have kept my eyes open for such omens, which I find usually appear in threes.
The first labyrinth showed up in an Episcopalian church in Philadelphia where “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was written. This labyrinth was carved into a large wooden plate. The point was to move your finger through the smooth maze while centering your heart and mind. Arriving at the center of the maze, you retrace your movements out of the labyrinth. This is a tool for deeper contemplation and prayer. The wooden labyrinth’s place in the front right corner of the chapel gave it a very sacred and important aura. Seeing this object for the first time, I began to dwell on its meaning. I entered the labyrinth.
The Equality Ride stopped in Athens, GA for a potluck. The host church provided great food and space for wonderful conversation. Behind the church was a walkable labyrinth made from hundreds of bottles. In the brown dirt and stone, someone had created this great maze from mundane everyday objects. Bottles that once held beer, wine, and soda now line this path of meditation, this garden of prayer. Someone’s drunken night contributed to another’s sincere conversation with their Creator. This labyrinth presented me with the intersection of the sacred and mundane, the ordinary and hallowed. I’m sure that we travel through this intersection constantly without always noticing it.
Now I began looking for the third labyrinth. I was sure it would appear somewhere. One dark evening after an especially powerful conversation with a group of students in Nashville, TN, a fellow Equality Rider told me to look at the ground next to the church where we had been meeting. Sure enough, there was a large stone-made labyrinth placed alongside one side of the church. The darkness nearly hid the maze, but I believe that I was meant to see it. The trilogy of omens was complete. By the time I had seen all three labyrinths, I realized several things. The Equality Ride is a labyrinth of sorts. We journey on curvy highways and country roads, residential streets and parking lots. We sometimes go the wrong way or meet a dead-end, but every mile centers our passions upon the justice we seek.
Many conversations I have entered on the Ride are labyrinths, dual journeys to the center of what we’re trying to say. I rejoice when a student and I arrive at the center of a conversation and find respect and commonality.
I take every step into the labyrinth of life with the hope that purpose, community, and love exist at its center. I invite you to heed this advice from “The Alchemist:” “Never stop dreaming. Follow the omens” However many signs it takes for you to see life as a beautiful journey, I hope that it is abundantly clear how much the maker of our paths loves us. May that love inform our dreams of justice.
About the Blogger:
Ryan Barnette’s perfect day includes hot tea, a game of Catan, Japanese fiction, and increased justice for the disenfranchised.