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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Two gates - one entrance

I have one gate on my yard fence and it is just big enough for us to pull our over-sized trash cans in and out on trash day, get the mower through from the back to the front, and bring in the fresh plantings in the wheelbarrow.  It isn't as wide as my neighbor's which can open big enough to navigate a camping trailer through.  Both gates are functional and both provide an element of security and privacy.  Yet, I am quite limited in what I can send through my gate compared to my neighbor.  On another note - I have no desire to park a camper in my backyard, so I don't really need all that wide of a gate anyway!  As we go through life, we will find some pretty "wide" spaces we get through without much effort, while other areas of life are seemingly "managed" by very narrow passages.  Those "narrower" spaces seem a little harder to find and a lot harder to get through - but what is on the other side is often quite rewarding.  A long time ago I remember seeing a movie which featured a "hidden garden" which could only be accessed through a quite hidden and small gate.  Yet, once found and access gained, the inside of the hidden garden was amazingly beautiful. I kind of liken the really good stuff God has for us to those spaces marked with the smaller and often partly hidden "gates".  Get through that gate and you are caught up in the rapture of the amazing stuff God has prepared specifically for our enjoyment!

You can enter true life only through the narrow gate. The gate to hell is very wide, and there is plenty of room on the road that leads there. Many people go that way. But the gate that opens the way to true life is narrow. And the road that leads there is hard to follow. Only a few people find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 ERV)

We can enjoy life in the vast expanse of the "wide gate" moments, but it is the "narrow gate" adventures which bring about the greatest of reward and blessing in our lives.  We actually "want" those moments more than we realize, despite how hard it may to "find the gate" and actually get into the place God has prepared for us.  We somehow think God's plan for us should be so easily known, like the neighbor's extra wide yard gate.  Yet, if we are truthful, God's plan is much more like my smaller yard gate, or even the gate of the hidden garden I described above.  Not everything "fits" into God's plan for us - we need to learn what needs to be left behind in order to "pass into" what God has for us within the "confines" of the gate!  God doesn't actually expect us to find the gate all on our own - despite all the energies we spend seeking that gate.  He doesn't hide it from us or make it narrow just to give us a hassle or two to overcome.  He might just hide that narrow gate a little to see how tenacious we will be in seeking his will for our lives.  He might be preparing a narrow opening into what will be the "best find" of our lives just because he has prepared those places just for us - not everybody, just us.

We all probably realize Jesus was speaking about finding our way into the kingdom of heaven by realizing he was that specific gate and he was contrasting the "way" into the kingdom as only through him, not our works, religious efforts, or other pursuits of "good" efforts.  He surely wanted his hearers to recognize there were two diametrically opposed ways of life - the wider gate representing the "wide" choice of living for self and pleasing self's many demands; and the narrower gate representing the "focused" choice of denying self and living for another - Christ himself.  Jesus uses many references throughout his teaching while ministering on this earth which seem to center on this idea of focus - narrowing the focus to reduce the variables in how we live. A narrow gate requires a little bit more focus to get through than the wiser gate does, doesn't it?  The narrower gate requires attention to the "load" we try to bring through it, as well.  Jesus always reminded those who had ears to hear what he was saying that their burdens didn't belong to them any longer - he was offering to unload them from those burdens if they's just stop long enough to get them totally unloaded.

As I said, the narrow gate means we cannot bring everything inside - maybe this is what God had in mind by making some of the most meaning moments available only through the narrow gate.  When we let go of what we have been hanging onto for so long, we might be able to pass into what he has for us - that beautifully prepared places and moments where God meets with us and imparts something special of his grace and presence within us.  We experience these moments not by bringing all the distractions in - we experience them by departing from those distractions and coming into the newness of the focus the narrow gate provides.  Maybe we can experience some pretty neat stuff through all those other gates, but we only experience the beauty and sanctuary of the "hidden garden" when we actually enter through the "narrow" gate!  Just sayin!