Do you remember those theme parks we used to go to as kids? For me it was Australia’s Wonderland. It was a city of wonder indeed, filled with fast rides, and rollercoasters, and water rides, and chilled rides, and fairy floss, and every other kind of kiddie delight.
That place was a maze. It had been specifically designed to draw you in and maximise your chances of never ever leaving again. This was great for us kids – we would have been happy to live there permanently – but I am sure it must have caused some worry and confusion on the part of my parents.
Fortunately, such theme parks are blessed with giant boards posted at major intersections, displaying brightly coloured maps of the park with a big X saying, “You are here.” Those boards must have saved many a family from sending out change-of-address notices from the park.
I wish life was more like a theme park. It definitely has the rollercoasters and wild rides that make you throw up, and it has the more sedate rides too. But there are days when I feel hopelessly lost in the maze of flashing lights and movement and colour.
On those days, I find myself wishing for a giant map of my life, with a big X in the middle, telling me, “You are here”.
I find myself wishing for a giant map of my life.
Oh, how many hours of fretting and worry would it save me if I knew precisely where “here” was. How many sleepless nights, how many distracted days, how many fears could I save myself if I knew exactly where I was and where I was supposed to be going.
Those of us who have been around for more than a few seconds are well aware there is no magical map of life. We know full well that it is up to us to muddle through and make educated guesses and take considered risks. But it still feels nerve-wracking.
I want the magical map most of all when I am in limbo. And limbo can be any awkward in-between space. Perhaps I am considering a career-altering option. Maybe I am waiting for test results. It could be the ongoing daily grind of going to work, hoping today will be better. It might be the wait for a loved one to call.
I am yet to be convinced there is anything more teeth-grindingly agonising on this planet than waiting for an outcome. The suspense can feel like it is literally killing us. Sometimes we reach the end of our tether, the point where we would rather hear bad news than continue with waiting.
When I am in limbo, I can forget God has matters in hand.
When I am in limbo, looking for that ever-elusive life map, I can easily forget God has matters in hand. I may be tempted to believe God has forgotten, he does not hear my prayers or, worse, he no longer cares.
I might start to believe God is as flummoxed with my problems as I am.
It will never cease to amaze me how God continues to be present with us, even – or especially – on those worst days. When I am out of patience, when my calm has kicked the bucket and I am on the verge of giving up, that is when I hear the well-known whisper.
“I am here.”
He reminds me he is close by. He jogs my memory to recall his nearness and eagerness to help. In this moment of recollection, I feel a sigh of relief exit my lungs as I sink into his honest comfort.
“I am here.”
Does his nearness solve the problem? Rarely. Does his presence fix my limbo-like state? Hardly. And yet it helps to not be alone. Even if he does not speak, even if he does not snap his fingers and fix the problem, it helps to know he is near. And he still cares.
The next time you find yourself lost in life’s maze without a map, I hope you will remember this staggering truth, along with me, and breathe a sigh of relief: “Thank goodness. You are here.”
Have there been times when God has reminded you of his presence? How do you survive times of limbo? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.