The kids from the church youth group were really excited about the corn maze. Me. Not so much. It’s not that the maze was so big and so daunting that it came with a “help if lost” number to call on your cell phone. Those mazes do exist. I’ve heard about them.
The maze we were about to enter was the perfect size. Not too big to get really lost in and not too small in which you miss out on the heart racing challenge of finding your way out.
While a manageable size, I still had a bit of trepidation when I stepped in. Maybe it was my childhood memories of our Saturday drives out of our congested New Jersey neighborhood and into the country to go hiking in which we would pass cornfields and my mother would remark how easy it was for little children to get lost in the endless rows of stalks. I would stare out the window trying to figure out how for that not to happen. I couldn’t. It did seem once you were in the cornfield there would be no way out.
Perhaps, though, my trepidation was due to the fact the sun was quickly setting and darkness was settling in.
“Um, kids!” I shouted as they ran into the maze. “Do you think we have enough time to do this before it gets dark?”
“Sure we do, Pastor Donna!” they laughed. And with that not so blessed assurance, into the maze I went.
I have to admit at first it was kind of fun. The earthy, moldy smell of wet cornstalks in the crisp air of an autumn evening was definitely an improvement from the pungent smell that often came blowing in from the fields freshly sprayed with manure. The rustling of the stalks created an eerie symphony every time the wind blew and the muddy ground squishing below reconnected me to my inner child who used to love playing in the dirt and mud.
“Wait for me!” I yelled to the girls who ran on ahead. While I was beginning to have fun, I definitely didn’t want to do this maze on my own.
A few minutes turned into a few more minutes which then turned into a few more minutes which soon became more than a half hour. In one really sharp turn that was particularly muddy and slippery, I lost sight of the two girls who were my help—and salvation. (Okay. A bit dramatic but my sense of dread was growing.)
I stood by myself and noticed it was awfully quiet. The distant laughter of other kids and the murmuring of families figuring out which way to go, were no more. Was I the only one left in the maze?
The sun only had a bit more life left before turning in for the night. My heart then began to race as I realized something horrible. I had left my cell phone at home! There was nowhere to turn for help. I could start screaming but decided perhaps that was a bit too premature. Save the screaming for later when I really needed to scream for help.
I stood there with this sense of fear and lost-ness overtaking me. I forced myself to start walking, to try to figure out what path I should take, which turn to turn, which loop to loop around and which dead end to avoid.
As I walked I heard myself whispering, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leads me…” He leads me. I smiled. Yes, the Lord does indeed lead me. He always has. All of a sudden this maze seemed familiar.
How many times in life have I been stuck in a maze before? Not knowing the way ahead? Fearing the darkening skies? Wondering was there a clearing of some sorts? A clearing with an answer or finally a fulfillment to a long-awaited dream?
Yes, I’ve been in a maze like this before. That is, the maze known as life. And with every twist and turn in life I’ve always made a way forward with great trust in the One who was leading. Now that trust wasn’t always there. It was something I had to learn. It was something I had to experience.
It was the end of the fall semester in my first year at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology where I was studying to fulfill my dream of becoming a magazine editor. There on the job board was posted a part-time position at a well-known parenting magazine that would start during the winter break. The time fit perfectly into my schedule and the money was wonderful. I was so excited. If I could only get my foot into the door of a magazine…
The interview was scheduled late in the afternoon, which meant I had to hang around school later than I had wanted to. Again, it was my first semester and I was a commuter student, meaning for the first time in my life I was navigating trains and subways and the crazy and still-scary streets of a menacing maze known as the island of Manhattan.
I knew how to get from the subway stop to the school and back to the subway, which then led to the train, which then led to my home. But to stray off that path onto unknown avenues filled me with apprehension.
I did my best to relax and calm down. I tried to pray but my heart was filled with too many mixed emotions to really concentrate on what I was trying to say to God. I was excited about the prospect of the job while scared about getting lost in the big city’s maze. I reached into my book bag in an effort to try to distract myself with some light reading on the in’s and out’s of media buying. (A class I really didn’t like for numbers didn’t excite me as much as words did.)
As I reached for the textbook, my hand grabbed hold of something else. It was one of those pocket-sized Bibles that I had taken from a group who was standing on the corner of school one day handing them out. I flipped the tiny pages open. There staring back at me were the most beautiful words I had ever read. Even though my prayer to God was to me a failed attempt, God still heard what I was trying to say. God still heard my request to show me the way to go—not just directions to the magazine offices that night, but also the directions to the next step in my life. As I read the words a quiet strength and calm washed over me.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. Psalm 32:8
That night I entered into Manhattan’s crazy maze with confidence in the One who was leading me. It was only the beginning of a journey of being beautifully led—always.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leads me…”
All of a sudden, in the last hurrah of the sun’s light, I saw the shadowy outline of the girls right in front of me, running and laughing and squealing with delight among the cornstalks, not phased at all by the fact that night was here and we were all still seemingly lost in the maze.
“Don’t worry, Pastor Donna! We’ll find the way!” they yelled with confidence.
In the slippery mud, amidst the earthy, moldy smell of wet cornstalks, I ran to catch up with the girls. And I ran without any fear and without any worries.
For the way will be found in all of life’s mazes. Just run with joy. Move forward with a calm strength and peace. Enjoy the twists and turns and endless loops and even the dead ends. For when you trust with all your heart in the One leading you, you know the beautiful truth. We are never lost when we walk with God.