The Maze: Part 10, Death

The only thing that stood in between me and the door were these huge, ginormous, super tall, gigantic, humongous, really tall statues.

They were scary, scary, scary.  They were these tall statues of that Egyptian god that’s a dog or something.  I can’t remember if they had those Egyptian always-awake side-eyes or not.  But I was petrified they were animatrons.

I would not go forwards.  I was so close to the end.  I didn’t want to give up, but I was terrified.  My dad couldn’t wheel me anymore.  He tried to inspire me by saying something like, “Look, you can see the outside.”  And he was right.  The bright, sunny, warm, happy day was streaming into this last abysmal corridor of the maze.

There was an attendant nearby, and my mom went up to her and asked her if the statues moved.  Mom told her I had a terrible fear of animatrons.  The attendant said they did not move.  I watched people exit with no problems.  And I didn’t believe the attendant would lie when she had to see how scared I was.

Well.

I walked past those really tall, humongous, gigantic, super tall, ginormous, huge statues, and I was keeping a close eye on the one closest to me.  And right when I got to where, if I took one more frightened step, I would be right in front of it–that thing started walking towards me.

I’ve heard for a long time now that people fear public speaking more than death.

I’m not sure I believe that.

Death is a scary idea.

I have things that terrify me like everyone else (ok, maybe more than some people), but if I was truly forced to pick between death and one of them . . . I’m not sure I would pick death.  Maybe I would.  But the idea of really leaving my body, really going into eternity . . . that’s terrifying to me.

I don’t know myself without my body.  I have never seen my soul.  I don’t know what I would look like, or even if I could see myself.  I don’t know what Heaven is like and, even though I believe Jesus will keep my soul safe there . . . I am still scared.  There are so many unknowns about Heaven.  I don’t want to play a harp all day long.  And there are so many mysteries about God that are too great for me to understand.  What if I find out God hates me after all?

With all the what-ifs, all the fears, all the knowledge too big to fit into my tiny brain . . dying sounds awfully scary.  And yet I believe God, in His great grace, gave me an allegory for what death will be like for me in a little maze in California on a hot summer day when I was still a teenager and my life was an absolute shipwreck.

First . . there’s the scare.  Just like that statue that didn’t look like it could possibly move actually did move and came towards me, Death will come for me someday if Jesus does not return before then.

I will die.  At 28, I can tell I don’t have the same youth I had at 8.  I don’t figure that’s going to get better by 38 or 48 or 58 or 68 or 78 or 88 or 98 or 108.  And, on top of a ticking clock, there are all the diseases I could get, all the accidents that could happen to me, and always the possibility I could be killed.

I am pretty good at talking myself out of the idea of death.  I used to play video games because they somehow seemed “unchanging”, like maybe they might be around forever.

But that’s a no-go.

The Super Nintendo I got addicted to in 1993 or so isn’t just exactly the same as a Wii.

Even though a game can stay the “same” each time you play it and you can think of that as an eternal quality . . it also has no flexibility for change past what was written into its computer chip.  So sooner or later, I always had to switch out games.

(Besides that, eventually the game would plain old rot.  There is nothing eternal about the nature of technology.  You can ask the 8-track if you don’t believe me.)

Sitcoms try to promise that “unchanging” concept, too: families or friends on TV stay much the same through the years, often living in the same house or apartment.  But then the time comes when the actors go on to do different things or they retire or die, and the viewer soaking up all that make-believe for so many years must settle for reruns in an attempt to feel the same “happiness”.  That, too, doesn’t work, because, sooner or later, it gets old to watch the same episodes over and over and over.

Even if video games and sitcoms could last forever . . we don’t.  We have bodies cursed because of sin, and they aren’t going to last for hundreds of years, much less thousands or millions or billions or trillions or . .

Why am I saying all this?  Am I trying to celebrate Halloween or something?

Not at all.  I get that death is a scary topic–I get it very well.

I about needed a heart transplant–for my own heart to be taken out of my throat and put back in my chest.

Death is coming for all of us . . and, if that was all I had to say, I could be campaigning for October 31.

But I have news that’s so good, you can almost forget about death altogether: There IS an escape, an escape that all of us can take–an escape to the world of Light.

“Look, you can see the outside.”

There is a way past death, a way so far beyond death’s reach it can’t possibly hope to get us.  Just as that doorway was much too small for that statue to get out of, God’s gates are far too wise to allow even the least sin through.

Satan can never get us when we are safe in the love of God.

But how can we possibly get through God’s gates ourselves, if sin is not allowed?  It doesn’t do me any good to know there’s salvation beyond the boundaries I can reach with the chain of my sin anchored securely to Hell.

But Jesus broke that chain on the cross.  Jesus didn’t come only to show us the way to Heaven–if He had, there would still be no people in Heaven besides the Lord Himself.  Knowing the way to Heaven isn’t enough–we have to be freed from our sin to make it there.

That animatronic Egyptian dog statue couldn’t get me because it was on a set path of movement.  And it could not take one step further than the programming within it allowed.

In kind of the same way, Satan thought he had it all figured out.  He had a 100% chance of catching us in our sins.  But then Jesus made a path where Satan was not allowed–a path from our fallen world straight into Heaven!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Satan didn’t see it coming because it took God’s death to make that path possible.  And even if Satan had seen it coming, there was absolutely nothing he could have done–and nothing he can do, still today.

The path is open to all who want to take it, because Satan can’t place a blockade even the size of an ice cube in the path of an all-powerful God willing and able to purchase back His people from their sins, and to forgive them.

I ran screaming out of that maze, and let me tell you something, that animatronic stupid statue thing, it may have been tall, and it may have had big old long legs, but it could not catch me.  I ran faster than the gingerbread man out of that maze and onto the top of a stairwell.  The sun burst through my fear and my heart decided it didn’t have to beat 10 times a second anymore.

Death . . is real.  But eternity with God can be, too.

I am still scared of animatronic Egyptian dog statues.  And, way more than that, I am still scared of death.  But I don’t have to panic as my life unravels into death.  Instead, I can run to the Light, for there is my Savior.

 In Him was Life, and that Life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. (John 1:3-4, Weymouth NT)

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, NIV)

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Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Maze of My Life: Part 9, Getting Tricked

I followed her, and at last we were at the end of the maze.  The only thing that stood in between me and the door were these huge, ginormous, super tall, gigantic, humongous, really tall statues.

They were scary, scary, scary.  They were these tall statues of that Egyptian god that’s a dog or something.  I can’t remember if they had those Egyptian always-awake side-eyes or not.  But I was petrified they were animatrons.

I would not go forwards.  I was so close to the end.  I didn’t want to give up, but I was terrified.  My dad couldn’t wheel me anymore.  He tried to inspire me by saying something like, “Look, you can see the outside.”  And he was right.  The bright, sunny, warm, happy day was streaming into this last abysmal corridor of the maze.

There was an attendant nearby, and my mom went up to her and asked her if the statues moved.  Mom told her I had a terrible fear of animatrons.  The attendant said they did not move.  I watched people exit with no problems.  And I didn’t believe the attendant would lie when she had to see how scared I was.

Well.

I have a lot of fears.

The dark, holographic pterodactyls, animatronic arms, and foam mummies hanging from ceilings, apparently.

And then I have the big fears.  And one of the high-rollers is getting tricked.

As a kid, I could not watch suspense movies.  I would become hysterical at the least bit of surprise.  Here’s a true story: at age 12 or so, I actually hyperventilated because of a movie.  The movie?  While You Were Sleeping.  Now, for those of you who don’t know the movie, you may be thinking it’s a horror and that I somehow made sense.  But for those of you who know I’m talking about the chick flick with Sandra Bullock, you could understandably think, “Huh?”  But I bet you can guess why I was so upset.  In the movie, Sandra’s character falls in love with a guy, but while he’s in a coma, she falls in love with his brother.  At the wedding altar, she goes for the brother.

I felt tricked.  And mad.

I don’t really have too many stories of getting tricked.  I’ve had a few times.  Mostly, though, I just wait in fear for it to happen.

I have always had an especially astute awareness of the possibility for trickery.  I’m good about spotting corners where something could be lurking and figuring out how a seemingly harmless object could harm me.

So in a mummy maze already responsible for an animatronic hand, I was very suspicious of tall, black, and very unfriendly looking Egyptian dog statues.  Especially because they looked unfriendly.  Did you know they looked very unfriendly?

I thought it was kinda crazy to believe that statues so tall could actually move.  They looked like they were made out of solid wood.  But because I am the kind of person who worries about the irrational, I worried.

I was so worried, in fact, I froze.  I did not know whether to trust my mom’s power to persuade the attendant not to scare me or to go back and find the red exit sign.  I was afraid to go backwards.  I was afraid I would be ashamed afterwards, and I was afraid to have to go back to any part of that dreary maze.  I wanted out–now.  And the sunlight was all heaped up at the doorway like light’s laundry.  Even in the most frightening part of the maze–the path in between me and the doorway–the light touched.

I looked at the statues again, and it didn’t really make any sense at all that they could move.  This wasn’t that high dollar of a maze.  Why would I ever think such a ridiculous thing?

I walked past those really tall, humongous, gigantic, super tall, ginormous, huge statues, and I was keeping a close eye on the one closest to me.  And right when I got to where, if I took one more frightened step, I would be right in front of it–that thing started walking towards me.

I about needed a heart transplant–for my own heart to be taken out of my throat and put back in my chest.

Getting tricked is something I do not enjoy.

And I don’t enjoy it, either.

I don’t trust my eternity on the kindness of an Egyptian ‘god’ dog, but instead to a Savior who rescues me without duplicity.

And Jesus said to them, Take care that you are not tricked by anyone. People will come in my name, saying, I am he; and a number will be turned from the true way. (Mark 13:5-6, BBE)

Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. (1 Peter 2:22, GW)

[God] is my Rock, there is no deceit in him. (Psalm 92:15b, BBE)

The Maze of My Life: Part 8, Reflection

I followed her into another pitch black room with glazes of light and a red emergency exit sign.  I decided I’d made it this far into the maze–I didn’t want to chicken out in the middle.  So I ran into a mirror trying to get out.  This part of the maze was the easiest part, because there were people all around me–including kids.  If a pterodactyl came up and ate me, at least I would have company.

My easiest part of the maze was Mom’s hardest part.  My mom hates to be in tiny, crammed closets with total strangers for some reason.  So she was real motivated to find her way out.

I am a reflective person.  I reflect on what I do.  I think a lot about it.  I analyze, criticize, and try to fix up the past in my head.  But it doesn’t work that way.

What I end up with is a room so full of reflections of escape with no real way out at all.  And . . I have become comfortable in that room.  For many years.

Satan is so skilled at taking our past and taunting us with it, shoving us into remembering what we’ve done, knowing full well we have no ability to change what is there.

The only way out of self-reflective horror . . . is hope.  I have hope not that I can go back into the past and ever find my way back out, but that Jesus has broken the mirrors.  I no longer have to hold my mistakes up to reflect all over the universe.  They have been forgiven.  At the cross.

We had broken the Law many ways. Those sins were held against us by the Law. That Law had writings which said we were sinners. But now He has destroyed that writing by nailing it to the cross.  (Colossians 2:14, NLV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

The Maze of My Life: Part 7, Worthless Things

At last we got to some light.  But it wasn’t the kind of light I was expecting.  It was ugly light, and it was illuminating what were supposed to be . . . I really don’t know what they were supposed to be.  I think they were supposed to be mummies hanging from the ceiling.  Why, I do not know.  I was a) disgusted and b) scared.  I did not want to walk under those things.

Mom–who had actually waited–said something like, “They’re just foam,” and reached up and grabbed one.  It was hard to argue with that.

So much of my life has been filled with worthless things.  Feeding digital pets.  Buying $16 eye shadow.  Watching junkyvision television.  Collecting My Little Ponies.  Wistfully browsing fashion magazines.  Obsessing that a B had ruined my 4.0 average.  Fretting over a pull in a sweater.  Daydreaming about being popular enough to go on Goodmorning America.  Scheming how to get back at the teenagers who treated me like trash.  Worrying about what will happen in forty years.  Worthless, worthless, worthless.

Worthless things get top priority only when you don’t realize they’re foam.

For most of my life, I didn’t realize they were foam.

It’s hard not to be distracted by blobs of foam when you are so self-centered you believe everything that comes into your life you pay attention to.  That was me.  It still is, sometimes.

Because I still get distracted.  I still worry about junk hanging from the ceiling of this world.  But when I take a good hard look at it, I realize it’s nothing but a wasted promise.  And when I reach out and put my hand on it, I see it’s nothing but a flimsy attempt at meaning.

Real life comes from Jesus, only from Jesus.

Real life is the path that leads to Heaven.

And I don’t have the time to be messing with foam junk hung up for the sake of distracting me from real life.

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. (Psalm 119:37, ESV)

This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is found in his Son. (1 John 5:11, ESV)

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Maze of My Life, Part 6: Illusion

Right after the animatronic arm, a bright pterodactyl flew out of nowhere and I mean went straight for my eyes.  Then it vanished.

I immediately wondered what in the world had happened.  Had I had some kind of breakdown from the animatronic hand?  But I had heard this screeching sound, too.  Had there really been some kind of holographic image?  But what did that pterodactyl have to do with the mummies theme?

I was crazy for optical illusions as a kid.  My mom bought me a big book of all kinds of optical illusions packed with pictures to test the brain.

But ilusions don’t just come from cleverly draw pictures.  They’re all around us.

Where do all these illusions come from?  And why are there so many of them?  Why does it seem like everything in our culture runs counter to the Truth?

Illusions get their start in our hearts.  They are the longings Satan tempts us with.

The hologram or whatever illusion that was inside that maze . . . that wasn’t my fault.  But the illusions I allow to creep into my life by my desire to fill empty longings?  Those are.

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7, NLT)

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  (James 1:16-17, NIV)

Do not be turned from the right way by foolish words; for because of these things the punishment of God comes on those who do not put themselves under him. (Ephesians 5:6, BBE)

Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. (1 Corinthians 3:18, NLT)

And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:9, NASB)

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Maze of My Life, Part 5: The Panic

The first part of the maze was a black tunnel.  I don’t like black tunnels, and I was starting to get skitterish.  On the TV’s I’d seen, everything looked a whole lot lighter–of course.  The screens were using “night vision”.

I was still feeling uneasy until an animatronic hand reached out right in front of me.

Goodbye, uneasy.  Hello, panic.

I’d had anxiety for years, but in college I started having panic attacks. When Dad was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, my panic attacks ratcheted up and I was totally afraid of my world spinning out of control.

A panic attack is basically the idea that you have no control over what is going to happen, and that something is happening you would want control over.  The degree of the attack depends on how badly you don’t want the thing to happen that is happening.  A panic attack over turning an assignment in late in college, for example, was easier for me to handle than a panic attack because my father had died.

Panic attacks became like a best friend I never wanted.  They hung around all the time, threatening to lash out at any time.  I would have almost no control over them.   They could happen on bright sunny days or lonely black nights.  And they were bad, bad, bad.

A panic attack really is a lot like having an animatronic hand reaching for you.  Like a robot, the panic attack was totally unfeeling.  There would be no pleading for mercy.  And like a hand reaching out in a black and scary place, I never knew where the panic attack was going to drag me.

God changed my life when He intervened like the hand of a Father, pulling me out of a dark and scary place.  The panic attacks vanished with His Presence.  In the few years since my commitment to Christ, I have had one panic attack, and it was well-founded.  I had read a book about Hell that nearly unwound me.  Thinking about my friends . . . thinking about anyone going there . . . nearly undid me.  What I had to come to was the realization that God is every bit as loving as I believe He is, and that I don’t know the full story about Hell.

If I was going to have a panic attack, I would want it to be something about people’s souls.  No more panic attacks worrying about myself.  I’ve had some stressful times since my salvation.  I’ve had bad news, trouble, and heartache.  But I haven’t had a panic attack, except that one.  I just, I don’t have to fear an animatronic hand reaching for me anymore, because I know my Father’s hand is stronger and has a tighter grip on me.  So when I’m afraid, when I’m anxious, when I’m frustrated . . . I know He is there.  In fact, I feel God’s Presence the most often when I am in a valley.

Reach down from heaven and rescue me; rescue me from deep waters, from the power of my enemies. (Psalm 144:7, NLT)

Rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper! Save me from those who hate me, and pull me from these deep waters. (Psalm 69:14, NLT)

You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. (Psalm 31:4, NASB)

He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. (Psalm 18:16, NLT)
Even though I walk into the middle of trouble, you guard my life against the anger of my enemies. You stretch out your hand, and your right hand saves me. (Psalm 138:7, GWT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Maze of My Life: Part 4, Alone

Well . . but.  I decided my mom should go first.  In case there was anything scary up ahead.  My dad came up behind me.  There couldn’t be any surprises with trustworthy guards in the front and in the back, right?

Wrong.  For one thing, Mom blazed the trail ahead.  And I don’t know why, but the pterodactyl didn’t come out and scare her, and I’m not sure if the arm came out to grab her or not, but if it did, it didn’t impress her much, and the room of dead bodies didn’t scare her because all she saw was foam, and the terrible ending to the maze didn’t even happen for her.  Or anybody else, actually, that was with me.  Nope.  It just happened to me.

I have always liked other people to be with me in hard times or when things are scary.  That’s something about me that’s actually normal.  🙂

When I thought somebody was breaking in my house, the puppy I had at the time was not appropriate company (especially with him happy as a lark as we hid in my bathroom and I debated whether to hit an intruder with a wooden toilet paper holder or try to spray hot water from the shower on him).

When I decided to go jump off a platform with only a bungee between me and the ground below, I clung on my friend’s arm so tight she seemed to think it was a bit violent.  I thought that at least if the bungee cord broke, we were both going down together.

I have always kinda had this theory that if I rode a roller-coaster by myself, I would be in the cart that fell off the track.

So I don’t like to do anything scary by myself.  Always with other people.

That’s why eternity has always scared me.  Standing before God . . by myself?  Giving an account for my actions . . . all alone?  Going to Heaven or Hell . . . . without any of my friends or family around to help me?  This was not good news to me.  For one thing, I don’t trust myself.  I don’t trust my judgment.  And I sure don’t trust my explaining ability when I looked over the mess I had made of my life.  Why couldn’t my whole church go up together?  Why couldn’t it be a family judgment?  Surely my parents would get me in.

But I always instinctively knew that was not the way it worked.  Not in eternity.

But what was I going to do?  Not think about it?  Pretend it wasn’t so?  Hope that I could get people to go in ahead of me and behind me to form of hedge of protection around me?

I tried to deny it, I tried to get help for it, I tried to push past the fear.  But sometimes it would catch up to me.  And the more I realized no one could help me, the more absolutely terrified I became.  I would have nights where I would lay in my bed, afraid a hole would open up underneath me and I would fall into Hell.

But something happened I did not expect.

I found out that, when I went to God on my own, all by myself . . . He was ready to take me, as I was.  He was ready to forgive my sins and get me on the right track before eternity began and it was too late.  God, in fact, wanted me to trust Him, only Him for salvation.  That meant I had to stop worrying about myself and what I could do for my salvation.  That was a terrifying thought–something I have not truly mastered, truth be told.  But I do grasp this, now:

There are only two ways to go into eternity

  • by yourself
  • or with Jesus.

That is it.

And I pick “with Jesus”.

You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:2, NLT)

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Maze of My Life: Part 3, The Mistake

Inside the building for the maze, I didn’t see anything too alarming.  Yes, I knew the maze was based on a horror movie, but there were black-and-white TV screens showing people inside the maze, and it just looked to me like your regular, ordinary, everyday cornstalk maze, only without the cornstalks.  I could handle that.

I remember Mom asking a wise question at this timely moment like, “Are you sure you want to do this?  It might be scary.”

I hate scary.

But all I saw on the (blurred quality) tv screens were people walking around, trying to find their way out.  No problem.  I could handle that.

About three months after I committed my life to Christ, on the day when I made my commitment known, a lady I didn’t even know at my church walked up and talked to me.  I can’t remember at all what she said, but I remember her message: Watch out–Satan is going to strike out at you now that you’ve made your commitment known.

I thought this was way weird and way silly.

Now that I was committed to Christ, what could possibly happen in my life that could shake my faith?  I had experienced the Presence of Christ.  What could lie ahead that could possibly cause me to stumble?

You know where this is going.  I was in for a big scare.

Satan, I have learned, does not walk up to you after you commit your life to Christ and say, “Well, shoot.  I tried my best to get you into Hell but I didn’t.  I got beat fair and square so I guess all I can say is, congratulations.  Good luck on your new life.”

Think about the very nature of someone who tries to trick people into eternity in Hell.  Just think about that.  I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around that.  That goes way deeper that any premeditated murder we have on earth, and any evil thing anyone has ever done to any mortal here.  Satan has one mission when it comes to humanity: to drag as many of them into eternal torment with him as he can.

And when he loses, he is not a good sport.

I walked into the maze of my new life so happy I didn’t even see any of the dark corners that were coming, or think about what might be lurking in there.  Now that I’ve had a few big scares, I know Satan is out for my throat.  I know he is trying in every way possible to defeat me so that I won’t have one drop of influence in the lives of others, so that I won’t tell even one person about the free gift of eternal life that is out there for them.

I used to look at this wrong.  I thought Satan was the most motivated when I was lost to keep me lost.  Now, though, I think he is even more motivated to go after people who are saved.  First, simply for vengeance.  Second, because lost people can’t lead lost people to Christ.  But saved people can.  So saved people are a threat to Satan’s planned population for Hell.

Satan is scary–there’s no two ways about it.  And there’s no way I can know what he’s planning around the next corner of the maze.  But I don’t have to live my life in some kind of horror movie, peering around with rabbit eyes as I run to and fro.

I don’t have to be afraid because I know up above all that is going on in this maze is God, and He is watching out for me.  And I don’t have to be afraid because I know Jesus Christ has given me His Spirit to go with me.  And I don’t have to be afraid because I know Jesus has gone ahead of me, and He has already created a way out of this maze.  And He has promised that all who trust in Him and follow Him will make it through.

Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.  Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9, HCSB)

I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning. (Jesus, quoted in Luke 10:18b, NLV)

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Maze: Part 2, Going In

Inside the building for the maze, I didn’t see anything too alarming.  Yes, I knew the maze was based on a horror movie, but there were black-and-white TV screens showing people inside the maze, and it just looked to me like your regular, ordinary, everyday cornstalk maze, only without the cornstalks.  I could handle that.

I remember Mom asking a wise question at this timely moment like, “Are you sure you want to do this?  It might be scary.”

I hate scary.

For most of my life, I did not do life.

I had a good start.  I had a childhood full of friends and adventures, but all of the sudden, at about 10, there came this sharp cut-off point.  I tried to be popular and it just didn’t work.  I tried to be liked and that worked even less, I think because I struggled so much with my own self-worth.

By my teenage years, no one needed to ask me about life, “Are you sure you want to do this?  It might be scary.”  No one needed to ask me, because I didn’t do life.

My “life” was video games, TV, and hoping for what I didn’t have.  I was lonely, lonely, lonely.  I became afraid of being around peers, and I wanted to avoid social situations altogether.  On the outside, I don’t think people saw me as who I was at all.  Around people, I was usually very outgoing.  I grinned all the time.  I had a grin on my face that was became so much a part of who I was pretending to be, I wouldn’t even realize I would be grinning as I talked about serious stuff.  I had more and more anxiety about social situations.

College gave me a chance to “start over”–or so I thought.  I was better fitting in at college, but, unfortunately, many of the few guys who liked me liked me more like a toy than a human being.  I actually was pretty disappointing to them, because, even though I was a pleaser, I didn’t give myself away.  I can’t tell you why I didn’t other than the pure grace of God.

When my dad got sick, it gave me an excuse to be socially reclusive.  I could tell people I needed to spend time with him.  Really, I would go home and watch anime cartoons and play computer games to earn points for digital pets.  That was my “life”.  I didn’t go out with people, and the less I did, the more anxious I got about trying.  I was careful to go into churches after they started and leave before they ended, even though I really desperately wanted someone to come over and befriend me.  I tried to make it in a college outreach program, but, it didn’t work.  Even though there were people who liked me–including a close friend I still have today–I didn’t believe it was possible.  I didn’t like myself.

I didn’t know what life was supposed to be, but I knew I didn’t want to do it.  I didn’t feel good and I didn’t want to feel good.  I was in a real mess, all right.

Then there came this sudden changing point in my life.  It wasn’t where I decided I wanted to do life–it wasn’t that at all.  Instead, it was where I saw someone else wanting to do life–wanting to do a very dangerous life–and I heard myself asking, warning, “Are you sure you want to do this?  It’s going to be scary.”

That person was Jesus Christ.  I was beginning to realize that He had chosen to go into the most wretched maze of life of all–one that would end in sure death.  And, even though I knew the cross had already happened, I felt myself asking, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I wondered, when Jesus had died on that cross, could He really have possibly meant that death was also for me?

I became surer and surer, and not because I got smarter and smarter on my own or read a bunch of self-help books or went to counseling.  None of that stuff worked for me, not for what I needed most, and what I needed only: for someone to have gone in my own maze ahead of me, and to have made an exit.

Because the reason why I didn’t want to enter into my own life was that I knew there was no exit.  I knew it.  So why would I ever want to go into a maze knowing there was no way back out?

When I knew Jesus had gone into the maze ahead of me . . . when I knew He had made an exit . . . it didn’t require one bit of bravery on my part to enter into life.

I simply followed Him.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (Jesus, quoted in John 16:33B, NLT)

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Maze of My Life: Part 1, The Maze

I didn’t know I would be entering a strange microcosm of sorts when, at a movie theme park, I stopped inside a building advertising for a maze.

Now, really, this is going to sound so ridiculous, I don’t blame you if you don’t believe it . . but, even though this maze was named after a horror movie, and even though I would rather eat a pb & j sandwich made out of Styrofoam peanuts and jelly with high fructose corn syrup in it . . I didn’t really think about this maze being scary.  I thought of “spooky” and “exciting”, but not scary.

I hate scary.

Inside the building for the maze, I didn’t see anything too alarming.  Yes, I knew the maze was based on a horror movie, but there were black-and-white TV screens showing people inside the maze, and it just looked to me like your regular, ordinary, everyday cornstalk maze, only without the cornstalks.  I could handle that.

I remember Mom asking a wise question at this timely moment like, “Are you sure you want to do this?  It might be scary.”

I hate scary.

But all I saw on the (blurred quality) tv screens were people walking around, trying to find their way out.  No problem.  I could handle that.

Well . . but.  I decided my mom should go first.  In case there was anything scary up ahead.  My dad came up behind me.  There couldn’t be any surprises with trustworthy guards in the front and in the back, right?

Wrong.  For one thing, Mom blazed the trail ahead.  And I don’t know why, but the pterodactyl didn’t come out and scare her, and I’m not sure if the arm came out to grab her or not, but if it did, it didn’t impress her much, and the room of dead bodies didn’t scare her because all she saw was foam, and the terrible ending to the maze didn’t even happen for her.  Or anybody else, actually, that was with me.  Nope.  It just happened to me.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first part of the maze was a black tunnel.  I don’t like black tunnels, and I was starting to get skitterish.  On the TV’s I’d seen, everything looked a whole lot lighter–of course.  The screens were using “night vision”.

I was still feeling uneasy until an animatronic hand reached out right in front of me.

Goodbye, uneasy.  Hello, panic.

I screamed and went nuts.  Dad, who was behind me, got bashed as I threw myself back from the hand.

Have you ever seen a rolly cart being rolled forwards?  That was kinda how it was with me and my dad, only I didn’t have wheels.  Dad wanted to get out, too, but not for the same reason.  He wanted to stop dealing with me!

Conveniently, Mom was way ahead of us.

Right after the animatronic arm, a bright pterodactyl flew out of nowhere and I mean went straight for my eyes.  Then it vanished.

I immediately wondered what in the world had happened.  Had I had some kind of breakdown from the animatronic hand?  But I had heard this screeching sound, too.  Had there really been some kind of holographic image?  But what did that pterodactyl have to do with the mummies theme?

(I tried to ask my dad if he had seen it, but he was so confused by trying to get me to go on through and I was so frantic I couldn’t make any sense of it.  I never was sure if he saw that pterodactyl.  I tried to describe it afterwards, but I never could get a clear answer from him.  Maybe he didn’t know what a pterodactyl was.)

Now wondering if I was having some kind of nervous breakdown, I warily swiveled my head around as I was pushed forwards.  At least I didn’t have to walk.  That was nice.  For me, anyway.  Dad was tired afterwards for some reason.

At last we got to some light.  But it wasn’t the kind of light I was expecting.  It was ugly light, and it was illuminating what were supposed to be . . . I really don’t know what they were supposed to be.  I think they were supposed to be mummies hanging from the ceiling.  Why, I do not know.  I was a) disgusted and b) scared.  I did not want to walk under those things.

Mom–who had actually waited–said something like, “They’re just foam,” and reached up and grabbed one.  It was hard to argue with that.

I followed her into another pitch black room with glazes of light and a red emergency exit sign.  I decided I’d made it this far into the maze–I didn’t want to chicken out in the middle.  So I ran into a mirror trying to get out.  This part of the maze was the easiest part, because there were people all around me–including kids.  If a pterodactyl came up and ate me, at least I would have company.

My easiest part of the maze was Mom’s hardest part.  My mom hates to be in tiny, crammed closets with total strangers for some reason.  So she was real motivated to find her way out.  I followed her, and at last we were at the end of the maze.  The only thing that stood in between me and the door were these huge, ginormous, super tall, gigantic, humongous, really tall statues.

They were scary, scary, scary.  They were these tall statues of that Egyptian god that’s a dog or something.  I can’t remember if they had those Egyptian always-awake side-eyes or not.  But I was petrified they were animatrons.

I would not go forwards.  I was so close to the end.  I didn’t want to give up, but I was terrified.  My dad couldn’t wheel me anymore.  He tried to inspire me by saying something like, “Look, you can see the outside.”  And he was right.  The bright, sunny, warm, happy day was streaming into this last abysmal corridor of the maze.

There was an attendant nearby, and my mom went up to her and asked her if the statues moved.  Mom told her I had a terrible fear of animatrons.  The attendant said they did not move.  I watched people exit with no problems.  And I didn’t believe the attendant would lie when she had to see how scared I was.

Well.

I walked past those really tall, humongous, gigantic, super tall, ginormous, huge statues, and I was keeping a close eye on the one closest to me.  And right when I got to where, if I took one more frightened step, I would be right in front of it–that thing started walking towards me.

I about needed a heart transplant–for my own heart to be taken out of my throat and put back in my chest.  I ran screaming out of that maze, and let me tell you something, that animatronic stupid statue thing, it may have been tall, and it may have had big old long legs, but it could not catch me.  I ran faster than the gingerbread man out of that maze and onto the top of a stairwell.  The sun burst through my fear and my heart decided it didn’t have to beat 10 times a second anymore.

That maze stuck in my mind like styrofoam peanutbutter would stick to the roof of my mouth.  I explored that maze in my mind over and over again, never sure what to make of it, but always feeling like there was something to make of it, if only I could figure out what.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5, NLT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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