(with acknowledgements to Jerome K Jerome)
Have you ever been in one of those real-life mazes, with tall hedges?
You know there is a middle, and that’s what you’re trying
to find, but no matter which way you turn, you keep discovering a dead-end
(which, you suspect is the same dead-end every time).
After about an hour, you come across some people who look like they know
what they are doing. ‘Three turns to the left and then one to the
right. Follow that pattern and this maze is easy!’ they say to each
other in a self-congratulatory tone. But when you sneakily follow them,
a few paces behind, you discover some tough truths. The method they are
using doesn’t work (mostly because after the third left turn they
are facing a dead end, with no right turn or left turn). When they realise
their method doesn’t work, they improvise randomly, and end up in
the same dead end that you’ve been finding every 30 seconds for
the last ten minutes. Ho hum.
In your despair, a child of three comes up to you and offers to take you
to the middle for 20p. You pay up gladly, but the child disappears through
a tiny hole in the hedge behind you. The hole is too small for you to
follow, and suddenly you are both lost and diddled. You rush about, fired
with a new motive (to find the little child and demand your money back)
and accidentally stumble upon the middle of the maze with a surprised
look on your face. You quickly recover your composure, and allow a smile
to play over your lips, as if you planned all this and have simply strolled
round this ‘ridiculously easy’ maze with confidence.
Having reached the middle, you sit down for a rest. You don’t know
how you got there, and you know there’s very little chance of ever
finding the way out. You begin to resign yourself to spending the rest
of your life in this maze (or at least having to wait until closing time,
when you hope a friendly park keeper will escort you to the exit). Then
three of your friends arrive, with ice creams, having ‘done’
the maze four times already, grown tired of waiting for you to join them,
and gone off to get refreshments, and then come back to see where you
You are so pleased to see them, and you follow them blindly as they confidently
lead you towards the║ middle again. ‘Funny that,’ says one
of your friends. Not that funny. ‘I was sure I knew how║’
After five more futile attempts to find the exit, which always end up
back in the middle, you realize that your friends are using the three
left, one right method. You suggest that on the way out, shouldn’t
that be three right, one left? ‘Of course!’ they say, and
you set off with renewed hope and return three more times to the middle.
Feeling hopeless and foolish, you pay the small child once again (his
price for finding the exit is £1 per person per trip, because he’s
a smart kid), and emerge from the maze 45 seconds later. The small child
has pocketfuls of coins, you notice, and consider briefly either a) mugging
him or b) following him, learning the route and setting up in competition.
But you are foot weary, and slightly claustrophobic from high hedges.
You are enjoying allowing your eyes to focus on the middle and far distance
much too much to return to the narrow corridors of the privet trap from
which you thought escape was impossible.
In the parables Jesus told, the lost sheep was lost like you in the maze
- hopelessly unable to find its way back to the fold. And the lost son
was lost like you in the maze, as well - despairing of ever returning
to his home, on account of bad decisions and foolish choices.
But Jesus’ parables encourage us that even when we are lost,
despairing, feeling cheated and yet responsible for the state in which
we find ourselves, he came into the world to rescue us by his a-maze-ing
mercy (1 Timothy 1:15).
© 2002 Children's Ministry