If you were to take a stroll around my home, you’d eventually figure out that the spiral in its many forms is a meaningful symbol.
Favorite pieces of frequently worn jewelry are inspired by Celtic knotwork with patterns of swirls and spirals, a theme repeated in New Zealand’s koru, representing an unfurling fern frond. It’s a symbol of renewal or new beginnings. Scattered throughout my home are photos and furniture with design elements that repeat the hopeful message of the koru.
During recent reflection about possible choices and needed decisions, about patterns that emerge after years of closed doors and open paths, I’ve become more aware of God’s frequent use of beginnings and their counterpoint, endings, in his design. Ours is something of a linear culture. My mind follows the crowd with unthinking allegiance, even though my spirit is more content to follow a seemingly meandering way.
Poet and author Kathleen Norris who has written about her experience of the monastic life says in Acedia & Me, “I am not necessarily comfortable with the idea that a vowed life, whether to marriage or to a monastic community, is less an accomplishment than a pilgrimage for those willing to always start anew. To be always a beginner, in our competitive culture, is to be a loser. It is to remain continually vulnerable ….” As one who has come to see that pilgrimage is inherent in her vocation, those words bring comfort and courage.
It can be fearsome to face a new beginning. It is neither easy to leave nor easy to arrive. As a pilgrim by God’s design, I accept as truth the words in John’s gospel, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them.” (John 10:4) The devotional on this verse is found in Streams in the Desert:
‘This is intensely difficult work for Him and us — it is difficult for us to go, but equally difficult for Him to cause us pain. Yet it must be done. It would be in our best interest to always remain in one happy and comfortable location. therefore He moves us forward. the shepherd leaves the fold so the sheep will move on to the vitalizing mountain slopes. In the same way, laborers must be driven out into the harvest, or else the golden grain would spoil.
“But take heart! It could never be better to stay once He determines otherwise; if the loving hand of our Lord moves us forward, it must be best. ….”
The loving hand of the Lord is moving me forward. What is to come next is encountered first by him. It’s the hope of the pilgrim and the hope of all who face new beginnings.