A farm in southwest Ohio offers an elaborate corn maze each autumn. Students from nearby Miami University use a GPS-guided device to cut paths into a large cornfield and form a design as part of a class project.
Visitors are given a map as they enter the maze. Without the map, you can get hopelessly lost very quickly and end up retracing your steps. You never get anywhere.
Kind of like our lives.
In a sense, our lives involve a series of mazes that we have to find our way through. We come up against different challenges at different points in our lives.
And we have to draw our own maps.
Childhood, adulthood, relationships — you can probably think of many examples of the mazes in our lives. We walk into them not knowing exactly how we’re going to come out at the other end.
That’s why we need a map.
Whatever we value the most becomes our map. We decide what our lives are about. Whatever is important to us, what we choose as our priorities, the people we decide to surround ourselves with — those become our maps.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what our lives are about. The values we choose will direct them. The people we invite in will deeply affect them.
If, for example, we decide that making money is our priority in our life, our decisions will be based upon what increases our wealth. We’ll use people to enrich ourselves instead of loving them for who they are.
If we let our insecurities become our map, we avoid opening ourselves to love. We won’t put ourselves on the line for anyone or anything. We’ll choose to walk the maze alone.
If conforming to other people’s expectations and beliefs is our map, we never find the path that’s right for us.
If we let fear draw our map, we never get far from the starting point.
If we never give it much thought, we end up wandering through those narrow, muddy paths without a map to guide us. We wind up retracing our steps constantly. We can become disoriented and frightened.
If we choose love as our map, it’ll be what leads us through the confusing rows of wilted stalks. It’ll help us to know instinctively which way to go.
Of course, even if we drawn our maps diligently, they’re never all that precise. It’s still easy to take a wrong turn. The rows of cornstalks look the same. It’s easy to miss an important turn-off, to go too far and have to backtrack.
From time to time, we have to stop and figure out where we are. That’s the only way we’ll know which direction to choose next. We might have to turn our map sideways and even upside-down to pinpoint our location.
We also need to be continuously redrawing our maps, learning from experience. We figure out which strategies work and which don’t, and we try not to make the same mistakes and go down the same dead ends.
If we put in the time and effort and we pay attention to our maps, we eventually reach the end of the maze. Our shoes are muddy, but we don’t mind. As we step out of the cornstalks, we realize we’ve had a lot of fun getting to this point.
We think we’d like to have the adventure again.
And soon enough, we will.
There’s another maze ahead. And another.
And as we work our way through each one, we learn a little more about ourselves. Who we are, what we value, which paths take us most directly to where we want to be.
We become a little better at drawing maps and navigating the maze.