The labyrinth, a one passage way leading to another, leading to a room, leading to a garden...up, down, left, right, over and over, the same, but always different. Some days, I felt as though I was walking for hours. Following each bend and turn like some sort of human river flowing towards a destination of which I was so sure, but of which I knew nothing.
That was the way of the One. All those who committed their lives to His service went through the labyrinth. There were those who committed with enthusiasm, but when they started to penetrate deeper into the layers of the maze, they were driven mad. The walls and passages closed in on them and they became frustrated and overwhelmed, sometimes running blindly trying to find a way out. Others became fixated on a place or lesson, one which they could not get past. Then, there were those like me.
I'm no one special, except maybe, to the One. It was an adventure at first. Maneuvering through the labyrinth was something of a game. Sometimes, in those first days I would run, for the sheer joy of running. Once I signed my life over to the One, I felt a freedom, that I had never felt up to that point. I would run through passage ways and paths until I came to a garden with a bubbling stream. Here I would tarry. I would eat from the trees and bushes that held their fruit like beckoning jewels. Then I would lay down and rest, sleeping so deeply I was as one dead.
Then the lessons started. My first lesson occurred in a small room, that looked like a school class room. Every chair was taken. An instructor stood at the front and lectured on the words of the One. The words themselves were living. Over time, as I have delved deeper in the labyrinth the words have changed me. They have made my commitment to the One that much more firm and solid.
Lessons didn't always come in the form of a lecture. Often times the path would venture off through a dark valley or a small village where interactions with others would serve to bend and mold us, more to the image of the One. These were the hardest lessons. Others were often dealing with their own journeys in the labyrinth. Sometimes, an individual would feel his or her opinions about the One and walking the labyrinth were superior to everyone else's. Those always made me feel small and insignificant. But then, the One would lead me from that lesson and set me back on my path, not someone else's, but my own.
It was always in that time, when I was most alone, that I felt His presence most sharply. It was like looking at a picture of someone and then seeing that same person face to face. It seems, the further into the tangle of paths and rooms and lessons and places, the more difficult the journey has become. There have been moments where I have simply sat down, numb from the walking and the endless turns and twists. I lowered my head into my hands and cried, or I shook my fist and yelled.
"I can't do this! I am not strong enough! I can't take one more lesson. I can't walk one more foot!"
Without fail, the One would send someone along, who would sit down beside me. They would put an arm around my shoulders and simply say,
"It's going to be alright! You are going to make it! The One will help you. Don't give up!"
After a series of very difficult paths and even more trying lessons, I felt completely shattered. I lay on my back beside a small stream in a particularly beautiful garden. The sun overhead lulled me to sleep, but I felt its glow suddenly blotted out. I opened my eyes and someone stood over me. Wearily, I rose to my feet trying to see the face of the one before me. When I saw His face, I collapsed to my knees. It was the One!
"My King!" It was all I could mutter as my face nearly touched the ground.
He took my arm and gently raised me back up to face Him. Putting His arm through my own, He led me to a bench beneath a very large and very old apple tree. We sat together. For a long time, neither of us spoke, but He put His arm around me, pulling me into Himself, my head coming to rest on His shoulder.
After some time, He began to speak.
"Do you know under what tree we sit?"
I pulled away and looked up. "It is an apple tree, my Lord!"
"You are correct. Did you know that many years ago, this garden, was nothing but a barren spot of earth, void of anything that would be considered beautiful or satisfying?"
I shook my head.
"No one who walked by, knew that I had a plan for it. I knew what this garden would look like, long before you ever committed your life to me. I knew that one day there would be an apple tree on this very spot and that beneath it I would have a bench, just like this, so that many weary travelers in the labyrinth, could rest and find repose."
I said nothing, not wanting Him to stop talking. His very voice, seemed to draw the fatigue from my limbs and the weariness from my soul.
"Do you know why I planted this apple tree?"
Again, I shook my head.
"Simply, because I wanted to and so that it could bring glory to the one who planted it. You committed your life to me. I knew you before you ever entered the labyrinth. The difficulties you encounter along the way are each an opportunity to make a choice. A choice to raise your hands up and glorify the one to whom you now belong, just like this tree."
I felt tears filling my eyes. "But why does it have to be such a long journey and why does it have to be so hard?"
"This tree represents the passage of time. You see, I didn't plant the seed and the next day it was a full grown tree. It took years for that little seed to stretch and reach and grow. Sometimes those years were difficult. Storms, drought and even mankind sought to bring this tree down. It is because of those very difficulties that you now see this beautiful tree before you, still bearing fruit every season. When I planted that seed of belief in you, many years ago, I knew you wouldn't mature over night. It would take years. Every turn you make, every lesson you go through, every garden you rest in is a chance to submit. That is the way of the labyrinth, but when you come to its end, you will see why it is all worth while."
"What is at its end, my Lord."
"Why, that is where my throne room is, and there I will be waiting." He pulled me close once again and whispered. "Rest now. I have made you strong and tomorrow, the path will be there to walk again."
I fell asleep, my spirit at peace. Tomorrow, the path would be waiting and so would the One.
(This was a fictional work by Amy D. Christensen.)