Taking the “Narrow Gate”

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Our faith is something that must be nurtured and sought after. The world reaches out to us and pulls us away through life’s temptations, setbacks, and imagined responsibilities. At times the world will convince us that God is not with us, that God is just some imaginary human construct. We will begin to blame others for our problems and to seek easier paths. However, it is at exactly this spot that we should turn from our human instincts and dig deeper into our faith.

The recognition of the sovereign nature of God ebbs when we pay too much attention to the ways of the world and give in to despair. When we turn our eyes to God, the ways of the world grow dimmer and our faith becomes brighter. A strong faith is practiced and nurtured, despite our present condition, not because of it. There are few roads that are easy with faith. Jesus explains this, with a call to stay steady with our faith, when he says, “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life and there are few who find it.” (Matthew [7:14])

In life, it is the little things that make a difference. Our faith lives are similar. For instance, great musicians do not move on from their practice until all notes are played correctly. Great painters ignore the clock until every blemish is resolved. Many of us face these types of decisions in our work lives as well. Do we stop to get things right or allow time to force us to sacrifice quality to check off a “to do?” Inevitably creating great music, art or faith takes longer than we expect and there are always a few more things to do than we had expected. But it is in this spot, with our faith where we must decide between quality and quantity. Do we finish our task because time is telling us to move on, or do we dig deeper to resolve those nagging feelings? This spot reminds me of a quote I used many times in my career, “The great enemy of art is time.” Likewise, our faith life can become the victim of the suffocating drumbeat of time. High quality faith requires a focus to go deeper in practicing our faith. How often do we say, “I cannot do any more” or “I do not have the time to nurture my faith” and move on? It is this internal decision that separates great faith from faith that is just an afterthought.

Our faith is in investment of ourselves in combination with God. God is not a genie that solves our problems alone. Our God is a loving God whom desires a relationship with us. Like any relationship, it requires mutual acts of support. There are times when we need more from God than we can give, and God responds. Other times God only needs to stand by and watch us succeed. This continuum of faith varies from moment to moment.

Many of us are pressed for time. Our to-do list piles up if we tarry too long on a project. We are besieged by an endless list of tasks. Jesus suggests we avoid becoming slaves to our to-do lists and to focus instead on what counts, to be concerned about quality. Jesus wants us to trade off the trivial for the important, to avoid distractions and not stop until we find the answer that settles our souls. Jesus wants us to travel life’s narrow gate and, take the hard road. When we do, many times we find our answer around a corner that looks steep and hard. Faith requires a little more patience, with the sure knowledge that it will still all come together. When we take the time and find the right answer, life becomes revealed and we become contented. We no longer feel defeated or harried. We have climbed a long hill. We have put aside the great enemy of faith, time.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman