It's amazing how addicted I've become to ease. And it's even more amazing how that addiction doesn't seem to alarm me the way it should. Maybe that's why this reminder from Matthew is so helpful. It reminds me that if ease is my number one goal and pursuit--be it in my marriage, or my friendships, or my job, or my parenting, or my ministry, or even in my spiritual journey--then I are heading toward destruction. Oh maybe not destruction in the "eternal destination" sense of the word (after all, I've entered by the narrow gate, right? Now I must choose to walk in the hard way), but destruction of all the things I hold most near and dear. The bottom line is that choosing the easy way tends to lead to destruction, or, at the very least, disintegration. Be it destruction of my marriage, or my friendships, or my community, or even my very soul. If I am constantly choosing the easy way then I am never pressing past what is easiest onto what is best. And what is best is seldom easy, but almost always hard, or at least much harder.
Why do I tend to settle for what is easiest rather than pursuing what is best? Why do I continually settle for less than all God has for me and all he desires me to become? For it is the hard way that leads to life. It is the choice to constantly be engaging others rather than sitting back. It is the choice to constantly be moving toward those in my life and world rather than retreating in fear or apathy. It is the choice to drop the mask and come out of hiding rather than continuing to pretend and act and perform. It is the choice to continually be vulnerable, genuine, and honest rather than to opt for shallowness, fearfulness, and self-protection. It is the choice to continually be willing to risk rather than playing it safe. The choice to continually love rather than manipulate. All of this is hard. Yet it is the hard way that leads to life. So the choice I have before me today is to choose one or the other--the easy way or the hard way. And although the easy way might seem more attractive in the short run, it is hardly ever the best way in the grand scheme of eternity. Today, let us take the road less traveled. Let us enter by the narrow gate. Let us walk the harder, but way better, way. It is the way of Jesus. It is the way to Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life.
Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet him, than one,
that traveleth byways.
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn and take me by the hand and more,
May strengthen my decays.
(Lent by George Hebert)
O Thou, Far off and here, whole and broken,
Who in necessity and in bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate.
~To the Holy Spirit by Wendell Berry