LIFE IS AMAZING, a maze in fact. Of a sudden we wake up to the truth that we are inescapably in the midst of it, like it or not. Here we just are, landed where we find ourselves, landed with ourself. Why me, why here and now?
Like the wind, there seems no telling where we have come from or whither we are bound. How long will the passage be and who will I rub shoulders with on the way, we ask ourselves? Do I go it on my own or tag on to the crowd? And is there a someone or a something, somewhere, to latch onto and love, beyond the narrow confines of my individuality – a Love that will return love, or initiate it; and in the end enfold everyone and everything in an unbreakable wholeness?
Hampton Court maze is a hilarious place, fun for a day out they say. Everyone is milling about this way and that, getting in but also, getting lost and found. The laughter is catching but it is not so good on your own. That’s when you are concerned at seeing all those families and friends together and yourself on the outside, close but not a part. Some folk have to travel all through life like that, somehow seeming to miss the boat or just to be passed by. A cheery word here and there helps but it’s not the final answer; it makes it harder afterwards. Maybe it is better to stay at home then and not try to join in, not get bruised and hurt? But then in real life you can’t actually do that, for you are in on it anyway without any choosing.
Yes, that’s the difference with the maze. People there actually choose to have a go. They decide to plunge in so that they can find their way to the centre and, having arrived set off once again to return to the start! It’s a great game, the facing of challenges and the overcoming of blocks and hindrances, a planned enterprise of mental gymnastics which has no serious meaning at all. No-one was ever eternally lost in Hampton Court maze – thankfully.
Most people never really reach the centre of life. They hover on the outskirts and seem to slip out again where they came in. Many travel in circles over the same tracks, laughing and smiling, bored and frustrated, often distraught, as the case may be. Some find the centre but don’t know what it means. They don’t stop there to enquire or to contemplate but hasten to extricate themselves again as swiftly as possible. Not a few sit there bemused, like refugees at an air-terminal overcome with jet-lag and culture shock.
At the centre of Hampton Court maze is a tree, and a seat for sitting. In a very real sense then, the centre is actually the start and the finish. Life began with the tree in the midst of the garden, the promise of life in Eden and the misuse of potentiality by humankind. The forbidden fruit was eaten and sin and suffering and death crept in. Adam and Eve turned away from God and at once the thorns and thistles grew up to entangle the way.
God took flesh in Jesus and died on the tree of the Cross in the midst of the earth. His rising again reopens the way to Eden and offers us once more fullness of Life beyond the maze of this life. Jesus is the Way, and in Him we may go in and out, and find pasture. The seat by the tree invites us to be still for a while, to ponder, to meditate, to pray.
Still, we must trot to and fro through life day by day, all the same, though lost and bemused at times, seeking the centre and maybe finding, then passing away by the door we came in. Ours was not the choice to set out on the adventure. Nevertheless, the Good, Overseeing Lord has it all in His plan – who we are and what life makes of us en route, when we enter and when we make our exit. Nothing works by chance; everything works together for good – yes everything.
Our Fatherly God, in His compassion, lets the moment when we slipped into the maze pass from our conscious memory and the date for our leaving it again is His to choose. In the meantime here we are in the crisscrossing tracks of the time and place allotted us, amazed at it all. And yet the centre is always at hand, both before and after we have actually found it as well as at the moment of first recognition and disclosure. It is there at the heart of the world we live in, and if we will we can find rest there in prayer and communion at any time.