Life is a maze

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It twists, it turns and you become confused. You never know where your chosen route will lead you. That's life. You think you've figured out which direction will take you where you want to go, but it doesn't. You start to turn but another obstacle gets in the way. The path continues to wind. You become frightened. You're in the middle of unfamiliar roads and wonder where you are. You believe you're nearing the end but you're not. Finally after many intrusions, stumbling blocks and moments of terror you reach your destination. You're now in a clear space where you can see clearly what's ahead, at least for awhile.

You breathe a sigh of relief. "The bad is over," you tell yourself. "I'll make a new start. I never need to go though that uncertainty again." You think you've left the maze behind. But you haven't. You'll enter another eventually. That's how you learn where your strengths lie.

"I know I can beat this maze," you tell yourself. "I won't make the same mistakes this time. My sense of direction is better."

You believe the worst is over. You'll plan better next time.

Life is like numerous mazes. You experience one upset after another.

Christmas was one example of a seemingly never-ending maze for Nellie. The woman had a great life by modern standards: a husband, children and grandchildren. She tries to plan well, but regardless of how methodically she prepares, it seems that an unforeseen challenge waits to make her life more stressful.

Most Christmases Nellie's children all visit her to celebrate. They stay at Nellie's home for a week or two while she basks in their company. The problem is that crowds entail a lot of work. She's usually exhausted by the time it's over. Nellie teaches, and this year, she barely finished her class and submitted her grades. Nellie felt especially good that it was over because she would have time to finish preparing for Christmas without becoming overly frazzled. "Now, I'll have a handle on things," Nellie thought.

However, the maze was beginning to form without her being aware. The online grade book incurred some errors requiring Nellie to reassess some of the scores. The situation caused delay in her planned schedule for performing Christmas chores. Nevertheless, she hurried to repair the unforeseen mistake then continued in the business of getting ready for her Christmas company.

As usual, just when Nellie became comfortable, another glitch appeared to make her anxious again. She found her guests were arriving a day before the arranged date. Nellie hurried to make up for the unexpected news. Everyone finally arrived and things seemed to be going well. "I knew I could get through this," she told herself. Indeed her Christmas Eve meal went great and everyone said they had a wonderful time.

Nellie then went about the task of preparing for Christmas dinner for her group. Unfortunately one family announced they'd be unable to attend because of a sudden illness. By this time Nellie was beginning to tire. It was difficult to get dinner on the table. Finally as everybody sat down to eat a child became ill causing one family to leave early. "Whew," thought Nellie, "Surely I'll have no more surprises." But she did.

A virus swept through the house and various visitors reclined in bed for part of their stay. Another relative entered the hospital causing great concern for his welfare. Regardless, Nellie said, "this was a fantastic holiday."

All the apparent dilemmas ended and people left in wonderful spirits. Despite all the turns, ambiguities and swerves Nellie found her way out of that maze and saw clearly again at least for awhile.

"The mind of man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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