Since moving from Montana to South Dakota, we have been exposed to some things that were new to us. One of which has been the corn maze. We've had some fun in a few garden mazes but the idea of getting purposely lost in a corn field was intriguing to say the least. You can't say that people in the mid-west don't know how to create their own version of fun!
As I have been trying to live life more intentionally, and trying less to simply react to what life brings, I have discovered that living life is a bit like walking through a maze. It requires constant readjustment and changes in direction.
As you know, when walking through a maze you think you are going down the right path, and at the time it's actually a good one. Then, all of a sudden you come to a dead end. So, you readjust, turn around, and choose a different path. This happens several times until you finally find your way out.
If you have ever walked through a maze with a group of people you find out very quickly that everyone handles the frustration differently. Some get frustrated and just sit down and quit. They just want to be shown the way but miss out on the adventure. Others get angry and start creating their own path through the field, which by the way is not recommended and is also not very fun. Then there are the ones who simply accept the fact that they will face frustration, experience some failure, but as long as they are constantly moving forward and making adjustments, they'll find their way out. This way is much more enjoyable, for them and everyone else involved.
Maybe I have just developed a "pollyanna" view of dealing with the "failures" in my life to ease my own discouragement, but I have come to realize that these dead-ends are a necessary part of the process in experiencing success. It's the "failing forward" idea that maybe what you are doing is not working out like you had hoped, but at the same time you are still moving toward a goal. The heartache that failure brings with it is not easy to maneuver, but the hope that something better is just around the corner provides the perseverance necessary.
The magic is all in the readjustment process. That is the crucial point that will keep you stuck or keep you going.
I have been reading through the book of Genesis in the Bible and recently stumbled onto something that spoke into this crucial moment. Genesis 4 tells the story of Cain and Abel and how God was happy with the offering that Abel brought to Him but was displeased with Cain's. There are so many lessons in this text and we can get confused in our own interpretation of God's disappointment, but He says something interesting to Cain at the point where Cain realizes that God is displeased with him. God says, "Why are you so angry? Why are you downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
It sounds like up until that point, Cain had not yet given into sin, or in choosing to satisfy his own desires over what he clearly knew God desired. That was Cain's crucial moment. He had come to the end of one path and needed to make an adjustment. He had a choice to make. How would he deal with the failure and frustration he felt at that moment?
Would he throw his hands up, quit, and simply walk away from God and his family? Would he get angry and let pride drive him to cut his own path that lead to a way out, but not one that brought success in the long run? Or, would he have the humility to ask what specific changes he needed to make in his heart and in his actions that would benefit everyone.
We sadly know what choice he ended up making, which led to him murdering his own brother, breaking his parents heart, setting him on a lonely and difficult course, and grieving the heart of God. All because he made the wrong choice. All because he wasn't teachable at his crucial moment.
This has held a few important lessons for me as I seek to live more intentionally in various areas of my life in order to please God:
- It would benefit me to accept the fact that I will experience failure at times, but as long as I am brave enough to turn around, back-track a bit and try a new path, I am still moving forward toward my goal.
- It would benefit me to have enough self-awareness to see where I have come to the end of the path, but for some reason have given up and become comfortable with behaviors or thought-processes that are keeping me stuck. Unloading them at the dead-end point will serve me well as I readjust.
- It would benefit me to have the courage to ask those who are trustworthy, what specific changes need to be made in order to change my direction. This is a tough one and it requires much humility. I may need to make myself accountable to someone to make sure I follow through on the process.
- It would benefit me to keep my eye on the goal, which is to become more like Christ as I work through this maze called life. Jesus gives me the goal. The Holy Spirit gives the awareness and ability to make the right choices. And God the Father provides the perseverance as my connection with Him fills my heart with the desire to glorify Him.
Living this life with intention is a challenge. I'm finally seeing that it comes down to choices. Joshua challenges us to choose this day who we will serve (Joshua 24:14). I suspect I will still constantly get lost in the maze and there will be many times where I'll get tired, want to quit, and want to serve myself. I pray that my tendency, and yours, will be to make the adjustments necessary to have a little fun in the process, please God along the way, and finally reach the exit that will get us home.