In walking the labyrinth, we leave the entrance and begin a journey towards the centre. This got me thinking about the leaving’s I have experienced in life.
The first leaving I remember was as an 8-year-old. We left Scotland, sailing from South Hampton in England on the Ellinis one of the last ships through the Suez Canal to come back to Western Australia. [I had been born in Western Australia but left when I was 2 years old].
My father, a minister of religion believed God had called him to return to Perth to minister a church in Scarborough. My father was happy to be returning to Western Australia, he loved the time he had been here previously. I was less happy. As an 8-year-old the concept of God calling you to move to the other side of world was perplexing. How does God “call” you? I was familiar with our neighbour in Scotland who would often “yoo-hoo” over the fence calling my mother, but I had heard no Divine “yoo-hoo”.
I was sad to be leaving my friends and the place I had grown up but was told to “man up”. Since it was God who had called, grief and sadness could not be acknowledged or experienced, after all, one should be happy doing God’s work. Again, perplexing. Why God needed my father to go halfway round the world to do his work was beyond me. Why couldn’t God do his own work?
When grief and sadness in children is given no room for expression or resolution, it does not magically go away. It festers and often becomes a damaging back drop throughout the adolescent years as I can attest.
Eight years later, God called my father once again. This time to move to another State within Australia. Again, no room was given for grief and sadness at losing friends and the connections that had been built up. This time shame was added to the mix. Grief, shame, loneliness is a toxic mix for any person.
As an adult, my leavings continued. I ended up leaving the church, then leaving my faith in a decade long struggle. I left my biological family, having no contact with my parents in the final years of their life to maintain my mental health. I left my marriage and a heterosexual way of life to be a man who is same sex attracted and I have left relationships with men.
For years I carried grief and loneliness because I felt that all I was doing was leaving, never arriving. Over the last years my perspective has shifted. It isn’t just what the leaving. We must balance the leaving with what we are journey too. As in the labyrinth, we leave the entrance, to walk towards the centre.
So, what have I learnt from my leavings?
It is about perspective.
Firstly, we must honour the grief and sadness of our leavings. We must create space and rituals to honour our endings. We cannot glibly pass over what has occurred as if it is of no account, God or no God.
Secondly, we must hold in our hearts and minds what we are journeying towards. I didn’t just leave the faith of my family, I journeyed to deeper, richer understanding of spirituality and the ultimate grace and beauty of life. I didn’t just leave the church, I journeyed towards an understanding of belonging that isn’t based on group think or agreement with majority thinking. I didn’t just leave my marriage. I journeyed and still journey towards authenticity and honesty as a same sex attract man.
In Roman mythology, Janus was the god who looked both ways. He was frequently found over doorways and arches. We look back and honour what we have left. We look forward to what and who we are becoming.