When my wife and I first started dating, on one evening, I arranged for us to meet at Oxford Circus station and walk to a local square which hosted several nice restaurants. I had been there before and had also reminded myself of which way to walk, by checking my London A-Z map the night before.
Despite my preparations, I took a wrong turn while walking there and we ended up heading in the wrong direction. With the help of some friendly locals, we did eventually make our way there and had a lovely dinner together, but it was from that moment on that Louise learnt that her future husband was not blessed with a good sense of direction.
Nevertheless, despite my lack of navigational skills, I must admit that I do enjoy the challenge of navigating through a maze. And, over the years, both Louise and I have had the good fortune to try out our fair share.
We have often found these within the grounds of various castles, palaces and stately homes (Louise absolutely loves medieval history), but also in a variety of other locations.
And, while every maze we have visited has been unique in its own way, there is one in particular which always sticks in my memory.
In this particular maze, the goal was to reach the middle, and in the center, there was an elevated platform which allowed you to see the whole layout of the maze in one easy view.
Now, because those on the elevated platform could see exactly where their friends and family were heading, they could also see where they were going wrong, so of course, as you could imagine, a great deal of fun was had by shouting directions to loved ones.
And, because this maze was quite difficult to navigate, there were even designated staff and volunteers walking through and offering help to anyone who was looking either annoyed or lost. I must confess that after over an hour of searching for the exit, my wife and I were approached by one of these very helpful people. Initially, we declined their help, as after so much time invested we wanted to figure it out alone, but then about fifteen minutes later, when annoyed perseverance was turning into marital disharmony, we relented and asked for help. The advice they gave was excellent and less than a minute later we joined the group in the raised middle of the maze. We were then able to see exactly where we had gone wrong over the preceding hour.
Some time later, it occurred to me that this maze in many ways represented my own life. Fumbling around, always insisting on following my own path, often reluctant to accept advice from friends and family, and particularly reluctant to accept advice from God. It also occurred to me that every time I choose to listen to God, that the path of my life improves and I find the way out of life’s problems and difficulties.
I also considered how my decisions within the maze were affected by the people around me. My wife and I would discuss each left or right decision before we made our next move. We were both influenced when we saw a group walking towards us looking as if they had just returned from a dead end. I’m sure we even made a few subconscious decisions based on not wanting to follow a group of over enthusiastic teenagers, even when our instincts might have otherwise pointed us in that direction.
When I considered how other people affected us (and perhaps even how we affected them), it occurred to me that this maze represented not just my life but in many ways, all of our lives and how we collectively come together in this world to make the decisions that we do. And, when I considered all of this, it occurred to me that perhaps this maze also represents, at least in some ways, how God views us. And, while we can never fully comprehend this view, by using the analogy of the maze, perhaps we can have a glimpse of God’s perspective and can come to know him better.
So, what is the maze analogy?
Try to imagine a two-dimensional maze written on a piece of paper. The lines in the drawing go left and right, forward and backward, but they do not go vertically upward from the paper. If you were a two-dimensional being and you were placed inside this maze effectively just as a two-dimensional drawing of yourself, you would find it very difficult to find your way out.
Next, let’s imagine a three-dimensional being trying to figure out the quickest route through this drawing. When looking from above, even a child can figure out the quickest route with ease. They can work out the best way through because they have the massive advantage of being three dimensional and being able to look down on the paper from above.
Hold on to those ideas of two-dimensional and three-dimensional while I explain God’s view. God is a four-dimensional being. Further in the book, I will outline the evidence for this, but for now, if you can, please humor me and just assume that this is the case.
The fourth dimension is time. A four-dimensional being can move forward and backward (dimension one), left and right (dimension two), up and down (dimension three), and forward and backward in time (dimension four), and this is as natural to them as our three-dimensional state is to us.
Now if you try to hold in your head what it must be like to be able to see all of the future and all of history in one easy view, and how God uses this information to guide us then it will quite literally blow your mind.
God is four-dimensional, so we being three-dimensional can never truly understand his perspective (nor should we try) but by using the maze analogy, what we can do is understand a little better about how he sees us, and we can learn to trust.
In my earlier example, I discussed a two-dimensional drawing and how a three-dimensional being like me can see the best path through with ease.
When I was in that picturesque hedge maze, I was effectively in a two-dimensional world. I had no idea what was around the next corner, I could only guess my way through and use my memories from the times I had gone the wrong way to aid my navigation. The people in the middle were elevated and had the advantage of a three-dimensional view and as such could very easily see the whole picture and the correct path was obvious to them.
In life, I am three-dimensional, and I cannot see what tomorrow will bring. God is four-dimensional, and he can see what my whole life will be. He knows what the end result of all of my decisions will be and as a result, when choices need to be made, he knows which path I should take.
To understand the maze analogy, put your three-dimensional self into God’s four-dimensional maze. Then put God in the middle and imagine him viewing all of us and all of time in one glorious and enormous four-dimensional maze.
We live inside the maze of life, and God presides in the middle, calling out directions. Because our world is broken, the path towards him is no longer direct, and if you follow your own path, then you might end up like I did inside the hedge maze; trapped inside, constantly going the wrong way, and becoming more and more frustrated with life. But, if instead you choose to listen, then your life will be guided by the one who knows the way through.