by Rev. Erik Hoeke
What is this maze in the woods? The one just off the walking trail, built with stones and gravel, covered with weeds?
The last time I walked the maze, I ignored the weeds. This time I bend down and begin to pull them out, one by one. Some spread wide, covering much ground but easy to dislodge. Others are tall and hearty with thick, deep roots. Then there are small weeds, hard to see unless close to the ground. So I squat down, pinch them tenderly, and pull them up with care.
Soon, I have a handful of weeds. What should I do with them? I throw them beyond the edge of the outermost path, into the Outer Darkness. I move on.
Though I’m pulling the weeds up, they pull me down. Before long, the unwelcome growth has drawn me into a posture of prayer. Now on my knees, I am no longer walking the path so much as I am crawling.
It always looks like a maze, but I find no dead ends. It’s all one path that leads to the Center: The Place Where God Lives. The twists and turns of the path means sometimes the Center is so close you can reach it, but then the next moment you’re as far away as can be while still being on the path. In and out, left and right, I find my way one foot at a time.
Why is it that this very thing which gives life to weeds gives life to me?
This is all so absurd. These weeds will just grow back next week. What a waste of time to engage in such a Sisyphean task.
I’ve brought a companion with me today. She follows behind, but reaches into adjacent sections of path to preemptively clear weeds I have yet to encounter. Companions always make the way easier, or at least more beautiful.
After clearing the way, one weed at a time, I’m here in the Center: The Place Where God Lives. I stare at the final weed at my feet. It’s large and wide; different than all the others I’ve encountered along the way. I kneel down and, with two hands, grasp it at its base and work it out of the soft ground. The Outer Darkness is far from here, and it takes all my strength to hurl the pulled weed out of sight. I hope I didn’t pull God out along with it.
I breathe in.
I breathe out.
Outward I go…
…walking back the way I came, but not really. It’s a different path now. The weeds are gone, as is my longing for that which I can’t quite grasp. It turns out God isn’t like a weed; she can’t be felt between your fingers and manipulated into being or not being.
Strangely, the path is less smooth now. The pulling of weeds disrupted the crushed gravel and left an uneven surface. So I step with intention to level it out once again.
I crawled my way into The Place Where God Lives. Now I walk my way out. But is it really my way? After all, I didn’t lay this path. I only chose to follow it. Rather, it’s the way of a creator whose name I don’t know, whose creation in the woods gives life to the weeds, and also gives life to me.