Last week, my wife and I went on a short driving trip in search of spring. The result of our search is that spring is coming, but I think it’s going to bypass us to the south – at least, for us who live in Ontario. This seems to have been an interminably long winter. “Always winter, never Christmas,” as C.S. Lewis put it in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
We set out on Monday and pointed the car southward. The driving conditions were not particularly great until we got into central Virginia, and even there snowflakes were still falling. We made it to Myrtle Beach, our intended goal, where it was (at best) jacket weather. Since the weather was supposed to turn ugly again to the north, we stayed just one night and reluctantly pointed the car northward again on Thursday morning. To some, this would have been a pointless holiday, but for us, it was the kind of trip we used to take when we were younger, so it was fun just to see some new countryside.
On our second day, still heading south, we turned east to avoid some particularly frightful road conditions, and found ourselves on an interstate
highway that was, I’m sure quite lovely in the fall. In the winter, it was hard to tell, because my eyes were focused on the snow-laden vehicles around me. But as we traversed Maryland’s little “panhandle”, having gone up and down more hills than we could count, we entered quite a deep valley, known in the Appalachians as the Cumberland Narrows. Despite being nearly as rich in snow accumulation as home, we found this to be quite a pretty spot compared with what we had driven through to get there.
This got me thinking: usually, we see “narrow” in a negative light. When we find ourselves in a heated disagreement with someone, we are apt to cast that person as being “narrow-minded” (irrespective of whether or not it’s true). When we’re trying to navigate ice-laden sidewalks – an Olympic sport these days where I live – we’re dealing with “narrow” paths.
But, as the picturesque setting of Cumberland, Maryland illustrated for me, “narrow” can be good. Jesus understood this better than we all do when he said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7.13-14, NLT). Maybe the narrow way isn’t so bad after all; Jesus is telling us that the broad way, the popular, heavily-trodden route, isn’t going to lead us to him. So why take that path?
Many do, because it’s easier. It’s more popular. It comes with less pain, less struggle, less trouble. But it doesn’t lead to where we want to go. What we fail to understand, until we have taken the narrow way, is that the pain and struggle and trouble bring growth, blessings and a richness that we would not otherwise experience.
Don’t be afraid of the narrow way. Some will wonder why you take it, but Jesus will know why. Isn’t that what matters?