I didn't throw the damn rice hard enough

One of my earliest memories -- perhaps the earliest memory, if you account for the fact that my other earliest memory is indubitably shaped by hearing my parents' retelling of the event, whereas this one is mine alone -- is of a wedding. Or rather, a snippet of the reception -- I actually have zero recollection of the wedding proper, and quite possibly wasn't even there.


What I remember is that a little girl, a little older than I was -- I think she may have been the youngest sister of the bride -- took it upon herself to make sure that I wasn't left out of the big send-off, in which the collected guests would pelt the happy couple with rice (this was back in the day when they still used rice for this kind of thing). So she took me to her mother, who poured a small quantity of rice into my cupped hands. I carried my precious little mound of rice around for what seemed like forever but was probably just a couple of minutes. Since both of my hands were involved in holding my rice, I really couldn't do anything until it was thrown. My nose almost certainly started to itch. Finally, we all gathered along some kind of walkway for the grand exit, and as the bride and groom came by, I threw my rice ...

... and completely missed my target.

The marriage that we were then celebrating is now disintegrating.

If I were superstitious as well as neurotic, I think I really would be bemoaning my inadequately developed small motor coordination lo those decades ago. The throwing of the rice was for luck, right? And where is the luck now?

The thing is, it takes more than luck...

I went to a healing service at a nearby church the other day to pray for this family. But I got there late, and the service was tucked away in a side chapel with no rear entrance where I could sneak in without being inordinately disruptive, and I didn't know anyone there and so felt doubly awkward, so I decided to just stay in the courtyard and do my praying there.

The church has a labyrinth laid into the courtyard floor, so I quickly decided to walk the labyrinth on behalf of this family I have loved all my life, praying for each member in turn as I wound my way through the circuits.

On the other occasions that I have walked a labyrinth, I've always gotten distracted by wondering how far I was from the center. This is part of the nature of the medieval-style labyrinth design, which takes the walker in and out as they move through each quadrant. You find yourself walking right next to the center when you're still only a fraction of the way into the path, then walking along the outer edge when you are in fact almost to the center.

This time, though, these near-constant reversals of direction did not pull my attention away from what I was praying. Rather, it seemed especially suited to my prayers for loved ones who are travelling a path that they never expected or planned to be on, for which there is no clear and obvious way forward to -- what? It's hard to even know what to hope for when a family is in crisis like this. To hope that things go back to the way they were before seems impossibly naive, yet my imagination fails to provide an alternate good future.

The only bit of distraction came when I found myself in the center sooner than I had expected. Had I really wound my way through the entire pathway already? I wasn't even halfway done with my prayer. It was actually a bit jarring to find myself already having reached my goal.

Turns out, the walking was as much a prayer as the words I breathed. May God give my loved ones peace, focus, and an assurance of his presence, through a process that stands to be frustrating, confusing, and much longer than anyone wants it to be. And may he bring them home -- whatever that is going to be -- sooner than any of them dare to expect.

Top photo: "attempt 363" by ollily, used under CreativeCommons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

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