Back in October, we took the family apple picking. This is kind of a thing in New England. There are some great apple orchards in our area, all of which boast not only of their pick of apples (see what I did there) but their Fall-ish activities: hay rides, apple cider, apple cider donuts, and hedge mazes. We did bring home a giant bag of the freshest and tastiest apples ever, but my favorite part of this experience was that giant maze.
Imagine a narrow path between two walls of bushes eight feet tall on either side. Then put it in a windy, confusing mess of diverging trails covering nearly 3 acres. Most of the groups going into this maze were teens and college students. Come to find out later that there was a smaller maze on the other side of the compound. But here we entered with our 6 and 8 year old. Throughout the maze there are four or five lookout decks on various trails to help you get your bearings. Unfortunately, these were never that helpful. Can you really see the right way in a sea of options from just a few feet above the obstacle? I could not. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to know where I am and where I am going. I now realize this to be a dangerous assumption going into a hedge maze! Did I say that every path looks exactly the same!?
About 20 minutes in and tired of guessing, we pulled out the map. I know. I thought it sounded like cheating as well. But reading a map and following it are also two very different things. Even with a bird’s eye view of the maze, there were some difficulty in deciphering one path from another. I think all in all it took us about 25 more minutes to make it through to the end. (I told you this was giant maze!) And of course in our greater understanding after carefully studying the map, I saw at least two shorter paths we could have taken. Little did we know in our initial wandering that we were only a turn or two away from an early exit. But I’m grateful for the whole experience, especially for the life lessons we gleaned.
Here are some of the more obvious conclusions:
The only way out is in…and through the mess.
The right path is hard to find when everything looks the same.
Guessing at every turn can only get you so far.
Dead ends are inevitable but helpful in getting to know your surroundings.
Moments of clarity to step above the fray help bring perspective, but nothing is as helpful as seeing the big picture.
Aren’t we grateful for those who have made a way ahead of us or left us a trail to follow?
The journey, even in its wandering, can provide joyful perspective.
I could go on. I am glad to have had this family outing if nothing else to remind me that this journey of church planting is a winding, messy maze. But that is also the same as life. Anything worth doing needs to be approached carefully, noticing and recalling each experience as a moment to be learned from, and we must listen to the wisdom of those who have gone ahead of us. We might forget that the Bible, history, and past and current sages all give us perspective to see where we are going. Those, combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit in our own experiences, give us the tools we need to find our way.
I wish I found the answer for every situation inside of just a parable of what life is like. But that would defeat the purpose. We make a choice to enter in. And the only way to appreciate the right way is to get lost for a bit. We may indeed know more wrong ways than right over time. But at least we know.
So, here’s to getting lost.
I’ll see you at the end!