I’m prone to claustrophobia. Tight, narrow spaces can send me into a full-blown panic attack complete with sweating and hyperventilating. You don’t want to see what happens when I get zipped into a sleeping bag. I like wide-open, non-confining spaces. They are so much easier to navigate and you don’t have to guess what might be lurking around the corner. But, in the above passage, we are told that the way that leads to freedom in Jesus Christ is actually small and narrow. It sounds so counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But, when you think about it, most things about being a Christ-follower are counterintuitive.
The wide and broad way, the way our world encourages us to follow, is really appealing.
For one thing, that way is more populated … and more popular. There’s less accountability and the promise of feeling more freedom. The concepts of denying self, acknowledging sin, repenting, and accepting the sovereignty of God are not really applauded in our culture. In our humanness, we recoil against pain and suffering. We look for the easy way, the shortcut, to accomplishing things. We equate freedom and life with having nothing that feels too restrictive, too confining. And yet, being a Christ-follower means we choose the harder road. We see the highway on one side but choose the winding, narrow route instead. And we have faith that no matter what problems we encounter on that road, God is with us in them. Because this is where we find true freedom, true life. Life that goes beyond the confines of this earth. Life eternal.
My kids know that when they have earned our trust in one area of their lives, we are more likely to trust them in other areas as well. Our requirements might seem restrictive to them at the time, but once they have proven themselves trustworthy, they find that they end up getting what they really want. They gain independence, the ability to make their own decisions. And they get even more opportunities to demonstrate that they can be trusted. You see, there is actually freedom in obedience!
When I was a little girl, we took a trip to the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, MO. One of the attractions there is the Marvel Cave. The whole theme park was actually built right around the cave! I will never forget the feeling of descending into the darkness. We had to walk down a steep, narrow path, and I could feel the rocky walls beginning to close in on me. From time to time, our guide would even have to call out for us to duck our heads so as not to whack them on rocks that were jutting out. And just when it felt like we had been walking forever—just when it felt narrowest and darkest—just when we were starting to get really weary from navigating this path, we turned the corner and found ourselves awestruck as we gazed at this enormous room. Everywhere we looked there were stalactites and stalagmites. Lights had been installed, and they reflected off of these formations, creating the most beautiful colors on the
walls. There were pools of water in a shade of aquamarine I had never seen before and waterfalls flowing from upper levels.
Staying on that long, winding, damp trek had been so very worth it. The descent into darkness had revealed light… and life!
My prayer for you, friends, is that you will look at that narrow path with the small gate as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to experience the kind of freedom that our souls are longing for. The wide and broad path of the world promises us a freedom that is fleeting and temporary. But at the end of the narrow path, there is hope and peace and life everlasting.
I’m choosing the narrow path. And in spite of the hardships, in spite of the
challenges and the fears and the times that can feel as dark as the journey down into a cave, I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it.