I guess you could say I’ve gotten a little off focus lately, with you know… with um, that narrow path thing I’m always going on about. It’s of course always on my wayward heart and mind as it relates to the part of it I see drastically missing now in the church, and equally in this here ragamuffin. But I can’t let it go. It won’t let me I’m afraid. Old age and senility is a bitch I guess.
You see after at least 50 years of reading the scriptures devotionally, academically and in mostly utter desperation to grovel to the crumbs from God’s table in order to get through the given day, its commissioning and its constant beckoning to be on that exact path, will not escape me. I want, I need, I have to be on it—but, there aren’t many travel companions as a Nazirite once opined. And so I’m walking, I’m hobbling along. But here I go again, thinking I can, thinking I can, and resting in the fact that somehow He can, through me…conceivably.
A Prophet’s Graduation
So yes, it haunts me pretty regularly, it is true. And I often wake up from my grandiose narrow path dreams mesmerized at the fact that Christianity went and stole Jesus right from under our noses as we were sipping our lattes, planning our next weekend excursion, and tipping our way into the final icing on our “cake life” of the treasures that yet await us in heaven—or so we’ve been told.
But I’m not so sure.
And though I’ve been accused of sometimes being a “wanna be” prophet of woe, I get the feeling that perhaps I’ve now graduated from the class and am the real McCoy now. Not that anyone is listening, but I’m beginning to feel the “Thus Saith the Lord” off in the distance of my ears ringing, and so I’m speaking it out for those of us who have ears to hear and eyes to see. But maybe first we need to lose the air pods, cut the noise off, turn the lights down or simply turn around.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign
It’s funny how things go in life. There are little signs, little guideposts along the way that you know are leading you to something, even when no one else may be paying bloody attention. And then God subtly reminds us in that still small voice thing that there are yet remnants of witty bitty prophets of worldly insignificance who have not yet bowed the knee to Baal or Molech, and who confirm to us that the answers that have been blowing in our collective wind have the potential to raise up a valley of dry, dead as Hell bones if we will let it. That’s happened to me a lot lately.
It started with a few epiphanies that I wrote in my prayer journal which I then posted on social media, as those rare instances where you feel God pointed his finger right through the sky and into your heart and soul and “stuck” around for a month of Sundays. Things such as:
“We absolutely must drop the notion that as a Christian, everything we say and do will be liked by others regardless of our earnest desire to be winsome. In fact, if we are now to truly follow Jesus, we will more than likely earn the title of court jester”.
“Either you work for the glory that is now, or for the one Jesus says is yet to come. But very rarely does He entrust both to us”.
And then last but not least:
“Either we believe all of what Jesus said was true or we don’t. But it’s high time we absolutely believe that the behavior should reflect our conclusion on the matter”.
And if that wasn’t enough, Ann Voskamp walked in my reading life and upset what was left of my own very self-protected, yet very broken applecart. The one, two punch. Kaboom. She came, she conquered, I’m now done.
So, What Is the Narrow Path Anyway?
And so, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a pastor friend of mine several months back. The poor guy actually read some of my blogs a time or two and so he asked me, “Mark, so what is the narrow path anyway dude”? And I thought to myself, “Why’d he have to go there”? Foul ball. No, but really, I’m glad he did. Because perhaps I need to redefine it for myself again before I can sheepishly begin to articulate it to others. Drumroll please!
You see the truth is the narrow path is designed to tell us something right out the gate. It says to us ever so, I don’t know, OBVIOUSLY, that by the road being narrow, and few finding it, that the way is…well, hard I think. Cruciform. Yep, I’m sure of it. In fact, G.K. Chesterton once said about this exact fly in the ointment that “The Christian life has not been tried and found wanting but has been found difficult and thus left untried”. I couldn’t have said it better myself G.K. You see the narrow path first and foremost has to mean that if the Christian life costs your nothing to walk it, speak it and live it out in Sodom and Gomorrah (in case you thought you were in Kansas), then more than likely you took a detour of some kind, and that perhaps if you see all your friends there with you too, you may need something akin to a minority report.
I also think the narrow path has to mean something that sounds an awful lot like LOVE. No, not the easy peezy, Japaneezy kind for goodness sakes, that simply loves those who are “loveable”. Even gosh darn pagans do that. But something more akin to enemy love I heard a teacher once say, or that at the very least seeks to love and bless even when others will occasionally, or perhaps frequently curse and join ranks with gossip columnists eat up with days of our lives of which they mostly know nothing about, or who secretly hope for our final undoing. Yea, I think it’s that. And It’s not a cheesy love either that simply “grins and bears it”, but one that often is “butt hurt” and yet chooses to love anyway, and to bless anyway, and even gives a tunic and goes a mile or two further, and even turns a sore cheek now and again. Something about “love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things” rings a bell. Yea, I think this is to walk a narrow path–sometimes alone I’m afraid. In fact, oftentimes of late it seems.
Oh, and I think it might have something to do with FORGIVENESS too perhaps. Yea, so Jesus kind of talked a lot about that I believe. We are to forgive. Not necessarily to forget, but maybe to throw it in a “sea of forgetfulness” or something like that maybe. Like God did, and always, always does. Maybe its “seventy times seven” or maybe “to infinity and beyond” as Buzz always said. It means sometimes saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, or maybe even “Forgive them, since I too have often been unforgiving and unloving too”. You know, tit for tat. Reciprocal FORGIVENESS maybe even. Love and forgiveness have to be the dynamic duo I’d say. Yea, that’ll work.
Oh, and perhaps it means to GIVE maybe. Oh not the 10% thing necessarily, though perhaps not to its exclusion somewhere, or to something, or to even someone. In fact, to walk with the narrow path jive turkeys, it means giving a lot; maybe everything, even when knowing it is pearls thrown to some swine of sorts. Maybe even most times. No return on investment, no pragmatism, no accountability, and no blind man coming back to thank us. Just giving out of our plenty and out of our nothing maybe, for some joy set before us perhaps. Very Macedonian-like methinks. Very Pauline if you will. And perhaps Petrine, and Johanine, and all very disciplee and stuff. Or better yet, very Jesusesque don’t you think?
It means giving a good damn about all the plight you see both inside and outside your four walls without scurrying about so quickly so as to not think hard or deep enough about what it is you just saw, or if there is anything I or my collective brethren should do about it.
It means churches not so hung up on services but perhaps more SERVICE to others, both in and outside the sheep gate. In word and deed. Good news and Good works alright. And maybe, just maybe even with one of them there church thingies on every city block in the good ole bible belt, maybe we become a real talk of the town and own the plight of the homeless, the mentally ill, the widow, the single Mom and the fatherless. And perhaps while we’re at it, instead of churches becoming more like mausoleums, gymnasiums, Tony Robbins workshops, and the only spot you get your weekly “ex cathedra”, they become more like homes of refuge to those types. You know, the ones Jesus said are actually like looking directly at Himself I believe, and are the difference between becoming a right-handed sheep or a left-handed goat-for-nothing.
Hard Times At Narrow Path High
Yea, I think it kind of means all those things, and of course a whole lot more. But, that’s a good damn start, I think. That’ll get us going I believe. Yes, the difficult road of love, forgiveness and where we actually store up what we have and what we haven’t somewhere else I heard a man born in Bethlehem once say. And whether or not we hang around sinners, beggars and whores, or stay comfy inside church doors. Hey, that rhymed!
But you can bet that it’s a lonely, sparse road though this narrow path thing. I’m telling ya. And evidently, there are few there be that find it I heard a Galilean once say. But perhaps you’re either in or your out, you sink or you swim, you separate boys from men, put on your big girl panties, or something like that. But what I do know is, that the narrow path doesn’t get a word in edgewise around here much anymore, and I think that’s why the church increasingly looks pretty much like everybody else on that other road over yonder–safe and secure inside a cocoon of orthodoxy, while the rest of us are busy not even applying the itching ear salve their serving up on any given Sunday.